Victim Personal Statement. Procedure

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1 Victim Personal Statement Procedure Reference No. P15:2001 Implementation date and version number 6 th Sept 2010 (Version 1.7) Overarching Dorset Policy Linked document Reference No / Name. P Vulnerable and Intimidated Victims and Witnesses Procedure P Crime Investigation and Recording Procedure P Investigative Interviewing Policy P Hate Incident and Crime Policy Suitable for Publication Protective Marking Yes Not Protectively Marked PRINTED VERSIONS SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON. THE MOST UP TO DATE VERSION CAN BE FOUND ON THE FORCE INTRANET POLICIES SITE. Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

2 Contents 1.0 Introduction Document Aim Visions and Values Implications Rationale and Legal Basis People Focus and Risk Considerations Procedure Content When a Victim Personal Statement must be considered and initial actions Child, vulnerable adult or intimidated victims Taking a VPS at the same time as the witness statement Taking a VPS at a later stage Victim Focus Scheme Action to be taken by the Criminal Justice Division upon receipt of a VPS Monitoring/Feedback Consultation/Quality Assurance/Authorisation Version Control Introduction 1.1 Document Aim To provide a procedure for the taking of Victim Personal Statements (VPS) and the use of the information contained within the VPS by the Criminal Justice Division and other criminal justice agencies. The procedure will be supported by the following publications produced by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR):- Making a Victim Personal Statement for victims; Victim Personal Statements: A Guide for police officers, investigators and criminal justice practitioners for issue to all officers and staff who take statements; FAQs for VPS: For police officers and criminal justice practitioners. 1.2 Visions and Values Dorset Police is committed to the principles of One Team, One Vision A Safer Dorset for You. The Strategic priorities seek to achieve two clear objectives:- To Make Dorset Safer by focusing on current Strategic Objectives ; and To Make Dorset Feel Safer by providing a service that is people focused. This document contributes to the strategic priorities by increasing public confidence in the Criminal Justice System and taking victims views into account. 1.3 Public Confidence The confidence of the public is central to our visions and value of Making Dorset Feel Safer All of our policy and procedure must encompass the following: Address individual needs and expectations? Reassure? Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

3 Address what matters locally? Demonstrate professionalism? Express Force values? Instil confidence in colleagues and partners? 2.0 Implications 2.1 Rationale and Legal Basis The overall aim is to give victims of crime a greater voice within the criminal justice system, an aim of Government since the publication of the Victim s Charter in 1996 and the subsequent introduction of the Victims Code in April The VPS Scheme is part of a range of measures intended to improve the position of victims and to enable them, if they wish, to have a higher level of involvement in the criminal justice process. Additionally, the Victim Focus Scheme which was rolled out nationally on 1 October 2007 provides victims families with the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement. 2.2 People Focus and Risk Considerations This document is subject to an assessment process to establish its impact in relation to the requirements imposed by a range of legislation that might be affected by its implementation. When fully completed, a record of the impact assessment is retained within the Corporate Development Department. A summary of this assessment is then published on the Dorset Police website. 3.0 Procedure Content 3.1 When a Victim Personal Statement must be considered and initial actions The opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement should be offered to all victims of crime, however minor the crime, as well as to road traffic collision victims who are injured and a crime is suspected or a prosecution being brought A VPS can also be made by:- Bereaved relatives or partners in homicide cases; Bereaved relatives or partners in fatal road traffic cases leading to criminal prosecution; Parents or carers, where the primary victim is a child or vulnerable adult. However, it should not be assumed that a child or vulnerable adult is not capable of making a VPS (see paragraph 3.2 below); Owners or managers of small businesses The VPS scheme is victim led and entirely optional. It is the victim s opportunity to say, in their own words, the impact the crime has had on their lives. Officers must not put any pressure on victims to make a VPS if they do not want to, and no inferences should be drawn if they do not. Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

4 3.1.4 Crime affects victims in different ways. The effect on a person will depend upon a number of different factors, including their individual characteristics, particular sensitivity, previous experience of crime and diversity issues (ie relating to race, sexuality, age, religion/belief, disability or gender). Accordingly, even a minor crime could potentially have an increased or possibly far reaching impact on a particular individual. In addition, a combination or accumulation of such factors (eg diversity issues) could increase the effect on that victim, as well as the likelihood of them experiencing harassment, repeat victimisation or targeted hostility. Therefore, officers and staff must deal with each victim based upon their individual needs and all other identified factors and should never make assumptions for example, that a victim is unaffected by a minor crime The VPS may be taken at the same time as the main witness statement, at a later date at the victim s request, or at both times Officers must hand victims the explanatory booklet ( Making a Victim Personal Statement ) and must ensure that the Police contact page has been completed with the relevant details Officers must fully explain the VPS scheme to the victim and ensure they know that they can make a VPS at a later date if they want to. However, they should be made aware that if the defendant pleads guilty and is dealt with at the first hearing, this would not be possible and therefore they should not delay making a VPS for longer than is necessary. It is important to ensure that victims are given a full and appropriate explanation of the scheme, including the purpose, benefits and limitations, to enable them to make an informed choice. A victim could be reluctant to make a VPS if they do not understand the process or the benefits Officers may offer general advice as to what the victim could include in the VPS, but must take care not to lead the victim in a way which might subsequently prejudice the integrity of the statement and any prosecution Officers should explain to victims that although the court will take into account the effect that the crime has had on the victim (together with all the other evidence and relevant sentencing guidelines) and will consider the VPS when making sentencing decisions, it will not take into account the victim s opinions on what the sentence should be. The VPS must not include the victim s opinion about how the offender should be punished The victim must be told that once signed, the VPS will form part of the case papers and be passed on to other criminal justice agencies and that it will be disclosable to the defence if someone is charged with the offence to which the statement relates, although the victim s contact details will not be disclosed It must also be explained that once it has been completed and signed, the VPS cannot be altered or withdrawn if a victim has second thoughts about anything said, although the victim would be able to make a further VPS offering clarification or concerning anything said in an earlier VPS. 3.1 Child, Vulnerable Adult or Intimidated Victims Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

5 3.2.1 The following paragraphs in this section reflect the guidance contained in the 2007 revision of the Criminal Justice System document Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Child, vulnerable adult or intimidated victims should be given the opportunity to make a VPS. The victim should be given an appropriate explanation about what a VPS is and how it can and cannot be used, in order to help them make an informed choice whether to make one or not. Child victims and their parents should be given an ageappropriate explanation In the first instance, child and vulnerable adult victims should be given an opportunity to make the statement themselves, but in some circumstances it may be appropriate for the parent/carer to provide the VPS on the victim s behalf. In some cases, it may be necessary to take a VPS from both the victim and parent/carer in order to build up a full picture Young victims over the age of 16 years of age are able to consent to making a VPS, but in the case of very young children or victims with a learning disability, consideration should be given to consulting the parent/carer as to who should make the VPS In cases where an intermediary is used to assist during the investigation/interviewing process, this can also include the making of a VPS if necessary. 3.3 Taking a VPS at the same time as the witness statement If, after having received the explanation about the scheme and the booklet, the victim wishes to make a VPS at that stage, it should be taken by the officer taking the evidential witness statement The VPS should form an additional section on the MG11 form at the end of the witness statement. It should be lined off and clearly separate from the main witness statement. The VPS should contain the following declaration:- I have been given the Making a Victim Personal Statement leaflet and the Victim Personal Statement scheme has been explained to me. What follows is what I wish to say in connection with this matter. I understand that what I say may be used in various ways and that it may be disclosed to the defence In the case of child, vulnerable adult or intimidated victims, the VPS should be taken in the same format as the evidential witness statement. In cases where the witness statement has been taken in the form of a video-recorded interview, it is preferable for the VPS to follow on the same recording, but there must be a clear break between the two Full guidance on taking a VPS can be found in the booklet Victim Personal Statements: A guide for police officers, investigators and criminal justice practitioners Officers may use the prompts contained within the VPS guide booklet referred to at (or alternatively those set out on the Victim Personal Statement pocket notebook insert) to ensure that all potential issues are covered. Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

6 3.3.6 Officers should take the VPS as they would an evidential witness statement, questioning the victim in the same way, to help them express what they want to say. Victims should be encouraged to talk about their feelings by questioning. Officers should bear in mind that every victim will be affected differently by crime (see paragraph above) and ensure that all relevant issues are explored and reflected in the VPS if the victim wishes to include them Following the taking of the VPS, the officer must take the following action:- Assess any risks to the victim that may be identified in the VPS, or as a result of other information, and take effective action to deal with any assessed risk after consultation with supervisors and other specialists; Take any necessary immediate action to alleviate any distress or suffering of the victim. This may include the initial referral to Victim Support or other support agencies; Bring to the attention of the custody officer the contents of the VPS if anyone is in custody for the alleged offence against the victim at that time; Keep the victim informed of the progress of the case by providing the updates required by the Victims Code. This includes ensuring that the victim is notified of any Remand, Early First Hearing (EFH) or Early Administrative Hearing (EAH) court date. The victim will be kept updated as to subsequent court dates and other post charge information by the Witness Care Unit; Input the fact that a VPS exists and details of any prompts that have been covered in the VPS to the crime or collision recording system via the Central Input Bureau dictation system; Ensure that the VPS is linked to the other case papers as soon as possible Following the taking of the VPS the Criminal Justice Division will ensure that all subsequent necessary actions identified in the VPS, are carried out. This may include dealing with special needs if the case progresses to court, and notifying other criminal justice agencies, primarily the Crown Prosecution Service, of the VPS and its content If a VPS contains concerns of the victim about bail the Custody Officer must take these into consideration when making decisions about whether to grant bail or in determining any conditions of bail that might be necessary to remove the need to detain a person in custody. 3.4 Taking a VPS at a later stage A victim may ask to make a VPS at a later stage because they have changed their mind about making one, or they may wish to describe the longer-term effects that the crime has had on them or clarify anything said in an earlier VPS. The VPS can be made at any time before the case is heard in court The Case Director or CJD File Scrutineer will task the officer in the case to offer the victim the opportunity to make a VPS if it appears from the file review to be appropriate The Witness Care Officer (WCO) should also, as part of the detailed needs assessment, offer the victim the opportunity to make a VPS (or further VPS) at that stage. The purpose of the detailed needs assessment is to explore a range of issues Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

7 which may affect the victim s attendance at court and their overall satisfaction with the criminal justice process. The VPS therefore forms an important part of this process The WCO should ensure that the victim (and/or any parent/carer) is aware of the scheme and has received an appropriate explanation, to include its purpose, benefits and limitations, so that they are able to make an informed choice. The WCO should be aware of the issues set out in paragraph above. Some of these issues may emerge during the conversation between the WCO and the victim, or may have been specifically mentioned or indicated in an earlier VPS (which, if made, will be available on NSPIS). If the victim wishes to make a VPS, the Witness Care Officer must contact the officer in the case so that he/she can arrange for the VPS to be taken Additionally, if a victim wishes to make a VPS, they can contact the officer in the case directly, using the details in the VPS leaflet given to them. The officer in the case and any other member of staff who becomes aware that a victim wishes to make a VPS must act promptly to ensure that it is taken and can be acted on before any court proceedings A VPS may be taken at this stage either by the officer in the case or another officer, such as a Detained Persons Unit Enquiry Officer. It may be taken at the victim s home, at the police station or any other mutually acceptable place. Before taking the VPS the officer must check the case progress with the Criminal Justice Division. If the case has progressed as far as charging an alleged offender, the CPS should be consulted by the CJD File Scrutineer to see if there are any case handling issues to be borne in mind Guidance on taking a VPS can be found in the booklet Victim Personal Statements: A Guide for police officers, investigators and criminal justice practitioners. Officers are also referred to the guidance at paragraph above The officer must remind the victim about the key points of making a VPS and ensure that the victim understands the implications of making the statement, in particular the fact that it cannot be withdrawn and that it will form part of the case papers and be disclosable to the defence The VPS should be taken in a written format on a new MG11. In the case of child, vulnerable adult or intimidated victims, the VPS should also be taken in a written format unless there are exceptional circumstances The VPS should contain the following declaration:- I have been given the Making a Victim Personal Statement leaflet and the Victim Personal Statement scheme has been explained to me. What follows is what I wish to say in connection with this matter [*in addition to what I said in my previous Victim Personal Statement]. I understand that what I say may be used in various ways and that it may be disclosed to the defence. *Delete if not applicable The victim should be asked to explain briefly in the VPS why they are making a statement, for example because:- The longer-term effects of the crime are only now becoming apparent; There has been a greater or lesser financial loss; or Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

8 The victim wishes to express legitimate concerns, such as feeling vulnerable, fearful, intimidated or worried about the alleged offender being granted bail After completion of the VPS the officer taking it must:- Assess any risks to the victim that may be identified in the VPS, or as a result of other information, and take effective action to deal with any assessed risk after consultation with supervisors and other specialists; Take any necessary immediate action to alleviate any distress or suffering of the victim. This may include the secondary referral to Victim Support or other support agencies; Input the fact that the VPS exists and any details of prompts that have been covered in the VPS to the crime or accident recording system via the Central Input Bureau dictation system; Ensure that it is linked to the other case papers as soon as possible, if necessary passing it to the relevant CJD File Preparation Unit under cover of the relevant file Unique Reference Number (URN). 3.5 Victim Focus Scheme Under the Victim Focus Scheme, prosecutors will offer to meet bereaved families in certain specified cases (as detailed in paragraph below) after charge, in order to explain to them the role of the CPS, the legal basis of the charges on which the prosecution is proceeding, the court process, progress of the case and the Victim Personal Statement scheme The categories of offences currently included in the scheme ( qualifying offences ) are:- Murder; Manslaughter; Corporate manslaughter; Familial homicide; Causing death by dangerous driving; Causing death by careless driving while unfit through drink or drugs; Aggravated vehicle taking where death is caused (where the case is heard in the Crown Court) At the meeting with the family, the CPS prosecutor will explain the Victim Personal Statement scheme. Some family members may already have made a VPS before the meeting takes place, but others may not. Prosecutors should explain the purpose of the VPS scheme and that it is open to family members to make a further VPS closer to the date of the trial if they wish The Family Liaison Officer (FLO) appointed to the case will be responsible for taking and drafting the VPS. The prosecutor must not be involved in this process Multiple victim personal statements should generally be avoided if possible. One means of achieving this is for one family member to formally adopt a composite VPS that refers to the impact on other family members. Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

9 3.6 Action to be taken by the Criminal Justice Division upon receipt of a VPS The Criminal Justice File Scrutineer must consider the VPS and ensure that any appropriate action identified within it is taken. The VPS should be used as part of the case review process, both for the evidential test and the public interest test as defined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. The VPS may inform decisions about the strength and credibility of evidence and the suitability of charges The relevant points contained within a VPS should be identified, together with details of any action taken, to the Crown Prosecution Service by an entry on the MG6 Confidential Information Form. If the file has already been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service then any further VPS must be submitted to the CPS promptly The Joint Administration Unit must ensure that any vulnerability issues are flagged onto the WMS system when the victim details are entered. This will include details of any special court needs The File Scrutineer must ensure that any victim intimidation issues have been brought to the attention of the officer in the case, and that relevant action is being taken The File Preparation Unit should ensure that compensation issues are addressed if raised in the VPS by ensuring that the relevant information has been included on the MG5 submitted with the file The Youth Justice Inspector will ensure that the Youth Offending Team (YOT) has been notified in cases where there is a young offender and the victim has agreed to be contacted by the YOT The Witness Care Unit should highlight any relevant issues to the Witness Service, including details of any special court needs or vulnerability The Witness Care Unit must ensure that victims are kept updated about the progress and outcome of their case in accordance with the requirements of the Victims Code and No Witness, No Justice. 4.0 Monitoring / Feedback 4.1 This procedure will be monitored by the Criminal Justice Unit Manager, CJD. Information provided by WAVES (Witness and Victims Experience Survey) will be reviewed at quarterly Victim & Witness Issues Group (VWIG) meetings as part of a range of performance measures. 4.2 Feedback relating to this procedure can be made in writing or by to:- Address: Criminal Justice Unit Manager, CJD. Telephone: Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

10 5.0 Consultation / Quality Assurance / Authorisation Police Federation Name Signature Date Superintendents Association Unison Other Partners Relevant Authorisation of this version This Version Name Signature Date (v1.7) Prepared: Sarah Chaloner 23/08/10 Quality assured: Mrs Jan Steadman 23/08/10 Impact N/A Assessment Questionnaire Completed: Authorised: Chief Superintendent Donnell Approved: N/A 31/08/ Version Control 6.1 Review Every policy or procedure is subject to two processes of continuing review:- A general review of its continuing relevance and accuracy called a Review of Purpose. An audit review of its current impact in relation to diversity called a Review of Impact. Date Next Review of Purpose 01/08/2012 Next Review of Impact 01/08/ Version History Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

11 Version Date Reason for Change Amended by Initial Policy Document Following further discussions at Superintendent Summers CJD Following submission from Superintendent Summers Professional Standards Reformatting Ms M Ashdown Minor amendments, to include Sarah Chaloner reference to the Victim Focus Scheme. Change from policy to procedure and transfer to new format Further minor amendments as Sarah Chaloner result of impact assessment Review and updating following Sarah Chaloner OCJR review and production of guidance/toolkit Minor amendments following Equalities and Human Rights Commission national report Sarah Chaloner 6.3 Document History ACC Head of Criminal Justice Division Criminal Justice Division SOPG Portfolio Holder Document Owner Owning Department Version 1.0 Approved at v1.0 Approval Date 20/09/2001 v1.0 Approved by Chief Constable v1.0 Implementation Date 01/10/2001 Victim Personal Statement Procedure P v 1.7

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