I’m a victim of crime but the police won’t prosecute, what can I do?
Becoming a victim of crime can be a traumatic and life-changing experience. Very often as a victim the most important outcome is to see that the offender is brought to justice in the criminal courts. Unfortunately this is not guaranteed and is often a complex and drawn out process.
At Saunders Law we have a proven track record of delivering justice for victims of crime. We are well-versed in using the VRR scheme against both the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) including in cases of violent and sexual offences, including rape and child sexual abuse.
When will a suspect be charged?
In most cases when deciding whether to charge the CPS must apply a strict set of criteria known as the ‘full code test’, which consists of 2 stages:
- The evidential stage: is there sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction?
- The public interest stage: is it in the public interest that a prosecution is brought?
In other, more unusual circumstances, the CPS can sometimes apply the ‘threshold test’.
An additional hurdle is created by the police, who will only refer a case to the CPS in the first place where they themselves are satisfied that there is a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’. Unfortunately the police, like the CPS, can and do get this wrong.
Victims’ Right to Review (VRR)
The VRR scheme applies to both the police and CPS (i.e. a decision by the police to not refer the case to the CPS, or a decision by the CPS to not charge.) It is a statutory scheme by which victims can challenge a decision not to charge a suspect. It does not apply in some circumstances, for example where no suspect has been identified at all, or where the suspect has been charged but with a less serious offence.
For a VRR challenge to be successful, the victim must show that the original decision to not charge was wrong. The reviewer must have had no previous involvement with the case, and will consider the following factors:
- The original decision unreasonably disregarded compelling evidence
- Significant misinterpretations of the evidence
- Failure to consider (or unreasonably ignoring) relevant policy
- Incorrect application of the law.
If successful the original decision will be overturned so that the case is referred to the CPS, or so that the CPS charge the suspect.
Other legal action
In the event that a VRR challenge is unsuccessful, a victim of crime can sometimes pursue other legal action including a judicial review against the charging decision. These are notoriously difficult to bring. In the cases of serious crimes including violent and sexual offences, it might be possible to bring a civil claim under the Human Rights Act against the police and/or CPS.
With all of the above avenues there are strict and difficult time limits involved so if you are a victim of crime and seeking legal advice, act fast and contact us as soon as possible.