Protection for victims and witnesses
If you're a victim of crime or a witness, you shouldn't be afraid to go the police or give evidence in court. There are laws and services to protect you. Find out what they are and how they can help you.
If you're afraid to come forward
If you've been a victim of crime or witnessed one, you may be feeling upset or worried. You may have doubts about coming forward to the police or giving evidence in court.
No law says you have to report a crime to the police or give evidence. But remember, by coming forward you could bring a criminal to justice. You could also stop the same thing happening to others.
You don't have to report the crime to contact Victim Support, a charity that helps victims and witnesses. You can talk things through with them and discuss your options with someone confidentially.
The police will keep your details private
If you give a statement about a crime to the police, they will write down your address on the back of it. The defendant or their solicitor will only get a copy of the front, so they won't see where you live. Also, victims and witnesses are not usually asked to give their address out loud in court.
When the police investigate a crime, they may give some details to local newspapers, radio and TV stations. They do this to find out if there are witnesses who could help them solve the crime.
However if you are the victim, they'll normally ask you before they do this. Also, if you have been sexually assaulted, they won't pass on any details that could identify you, like your name or address.
Protecting you from threats and harassment
It's against the law to intimidate (threaten or bully) a witness or anyone else helping the police.
If you feel threatened in any way, at any time, tell your witness care office or the police officer in charge of the case. If you're seriously threatened, call 999.
If the intimidation takes place in court, tell your solicitor or a court official who will report it to the police.
You can get extra help if the offender has been caught, put in prison, released on bail or convicted. The criminal court can make an order to stop them coming near you, threatening you or intimidating you again. If they carry on, they could face another offence and even be put into prison.
The Police and the Crown Prosecution Service can protect your identity during the investigation and the early days of a trial. In some cases, they can even protect your identity during the trial itself.
In special cases, if the threat to you is very serious, it may be possible to relocate you (move house) to another area where you feel safer. This is organised by the police.
Protection if you have to go to court
There are a number of ways the court can protect you if you have to give evidence.
The law says that wherever possible, you should be given a separate waiting area and a seat in court away from the defendant's family. If there is no separate area, the court will make other arrangements to keep you safe.
You can get extra help in court if you're under 17 or afraid to give evidence. Also, if you have a learning or physical disability or are a victim of a sexual offence. In these cases, you can ask the police to apply for special measures.
This can include screens to stop you from having to see the defendant, or someone to help you understand what you're being asked.
Protection when a criminal is released from prison
In serious cases, the criminal justice system continues to protect victims of crime, even after the offender is released from prison.
If they have been put in prison for more than a year for a sexual or violent offence, you'll be told when they're about to be set free.
You will have been allocated (given) a victim liaison officer at the Probation Service. In serious cases you can ask this liaison officer for special terms when the offender is released. For example, this could be an injunction (legal order) to make sure they stay away from you.
If the offender tries to contact you or you're worried about what might happen when they get out, call this number for help and advice. The Prison Service Victim Helpline: 0845 7585 112.
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