2 - Reporting a crime and my rights during the investigation or trial

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How do I report a crime?

You should in the first instance report a crime to the police.

You can do this in a number of ways:

Emergency: In an emergency dial 999 or 18000 for textphone users. An emergency is where serious injury has been caused or a crime is in progress and suspects are at the scene.

Emergency SMS text service: The police operate an emergency SMS text message registration scheme to help those with certain disabilities contact them in an emergency. This service also enables the police to pass on requests for assistance to the fire and ambulance services. The service is only available to pre-registered users who have completed an application form (further details and an application form are available on the police website Link opens in new windowhttp://www.psni.police.uk).

Non-Emergency: Where the incident is not urgent telephone 101.

Hate crime: Where the incident is not urgent telephone 101, then dial 2.

This is in addition to the other ways of reporting the crime set out in this section.

Third party reporting: If you really do not want to or cannot report the crime yourself, someone else can report it for you, such as a family member or voluntary organisation. They would make the initial contact with the police. You would still be involved later in the proceedings.

Call at your local police station: Where the incident is not urgent you may also report it at your local police station, during opening hours.

The crime may also be reported in the following ways:

Crimestoppers: If you do not want to give your name you can report a crime anonymously by calling the freephone Crimestoppers charity helpline on 0800 555 111. This service is not part of the police.

Harbour or Airport incident: Where the incident has occurred within the grounds of Belfast International Airport or Belfast Harbour you should contact Belfast International Airport Constabulary on 028 9448 4400 (extension 4412)/Mobile 077 1081 9183 or Belfast Harbour Police on 028 9055 3000. Where a major or serious incident such as murder, an act of terrorism or armed robbery has occurred these can also be reported to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Incidents at Belfast City Airport will be dealt with by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, through the contact numbers above.

Police Ombudsman: If you believe that a crime has been committed by a police officer you should report it to the Police Ombudsman who will investigate and may make recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions for criminal prosecution.

How do I find out what’s happening with the case?

If you are a victim of crime you are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information and to have the reasons explained to you without unnecessary delay of a suspect being:

  • arrested;
  • interviewed under caution;
  • released without charge;
  • released on police bail, or if police bail conditions are changed or cancelled.

You are entitled to be informed by the police of the following information without unnecessary delay of the police receiving it:

  • the date, time and location of the first court hearing;
  • where the suspect is released on police bail to appear in court, any bail conditions and any changes to these bail conditions.

Am I entitled to legal aid (during the investigation or trial)? Under what conditions?

Victims and witnesses are not parties to criminal proceedings and are therefore not eligible for legal aid in Northern Ireland.

Can I claim expenses (for taking part in the investigation/trial)? Under what conditions?

If you are required to attend court to give evidence you may have to pay for aspects like your travel. You can apply to have this money paid back. This is subject to time limits for claiming money back and standard rates for travel and subsistence costs, as well as maximum daily amounts for loss of earnings. Expenses are not paid for making a statement to the police about the criminal offence.

Details of how, under what conditions expenses can be reimbursed by the Public Prosecution Service and the rates that apply can be found at Link opens in new windowhttp://www.ppsni.gov.uk/Publications-7873.html.

Can I appeal if my case is closed before going to court?

If a decision is taken by the Public Prosecution service not to prosecute, and you do not agree with this, you are entitled to ask for a review of the Public Prosecution Service decision.

The right to a review of a Public Prosecution Service decision not to prosecute applies regardless of a crime type or potential court tier. Where the decision not to prosecute is taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and that decision cannot be reviewed by a higher authority, the review may be carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Further detail on the right to a review and how this operates can be found at Link opens in new windowhttp://www.ppsni.gov.uk.

Can I be involved in the trial?

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or defence.

What is my official role in the justice system? For example, am I or can I choose to be a: victim, witness, civil party or private prosecutor?

For the purposes of the Victim Charter, a "victim" is:

  • a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence.
  • a close relative of a person whose death was directly caused by a criminal offence.

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or defence. If you know one of the people involved in the case, you may be asked to provide evidence as a character witness, usually by the defence. In either event, your evidence can be crucial to securing the conviction or the acquittal of the defendant.

What are my rights and obligations in this role?

The Victim Charter sets out the entitlements for victims. It is available here: Link opens in new windowhttps://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/victim-charter.

If you have witnessed a criminal offence, but are not a victim, you can access services under the Witness Charter. It is available here: Link opens in new windowhttps://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publications/witness-charter.

Can I make a statement during the trial or give evidence? Under what conditions?

If you know something about an incident you may be asked to give evidence in court for the prosecution or the defence. If you know one of the people involved in a case, you may be asked to provide evidence as a character witness, usually by the defence.

If you are a victim of crime a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) gives you an opportunity to explain in your own words how a crime has affected you, whether physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. This is different from a witness statement about what happened at the time, such as what you saw or heard.

You are entitled to be offered the opportunity to make a VPS once a decision has been made to prosecute someone for the crime.

The VPS gives you a voice in the criminal justice process. However you should not give your views on the defendant, any other or alleged offences, or on any punishment you think should be given. This is because these views are not admissible in court. Before the statement is given to the judge, the Public Prosecution Service will remove any information that should not be in it.

The victim personal statement will be used in court if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty. It will be seen by the prosecutor, the defendant, their legal representative and the judge. where a person is convicted of an offence the court must consider relevant parts of the victim personal statement when determining the sentence. In some cases it may not be possible for a statement to be considered if the case is dealt with very quickly by the courts - for example. if there is an early guilty plea or the case is dealt with at the first court appearance.

What information will I receive during the trial?

You are entitled to:

  • be informed of the outcome of any bail hearing (any relevant bail conditions and any relevant changes to these bail conditions) with reasons without unnecessary delay;
  • be informed of the date, location and outcome of any criminal court hearings in the case by your Victim and Witness Care Unit;
  • be informed if an arrest warrant is issued for a suspect and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested. If a suspect is re-arrested after a warrant had been issued they normally attend court soon afterwards;
  • In cases where the suspect pleads not guilty, discuss any needs you may have with the Victm and Witness Care Unit and be referred to a relevant support group or agency where appropriate.

If you are a witness during the trial you are entitled to:

  • ask the court staff if you can enter the court building through a separate entrance from the suspect and their family and friends;
  • where circumstances permit, meet the PPS prosecutor and ask him or her questions about the court process. They will indicate where possible how long you may have to wait before giving evidence;
  • wherever possible, receive an explanation from the PPS prosecutor if there is a delay in proceedings on the day and how long the wait is likely to be;
  • wait and be seated in an area separate from the suspect and their family and friends - the court will ensure this is one wherever possible;
  • have any Special Measures set up for you where these have been ordered by the court;
  • be given a contact point at the court so you can find out what is happening in the case whilst it is being heard.

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Last update: 14/03/2019