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The Crown Prosecution Service

Transforming our service to victims at the CPS

Being a victim of crime can be deeply traumatic, and for those who find themselves in the criminal justice system the process can feel overwhelming, unfamiliar, and incredibly challenging. We do not underestimate the intense difficulty of navigating this system, or the resilience required to do so. We also know that the way in which we communicate with victims has fallen short of what they need, and rightly expect: it does not currently reflect our aim of supporting victims through the process and minimising further trauma. We are deeply committed to changing that – and to transforming the service we provide to every victim. 

Our duty is to prosecute the right person for the right offence, and to bring offenders to justice where possible. We must always be fair, objective, and impartial – balancing the rights of both victims and suspects. This means engaging with victims respectfully and recognising that the circumstances of every case are different, and so are the needs of every victim. When we are getting this right, victims should feel informed, empowered and – regardless of the final case outcome – that they have been treated fairly. 

This is a significant, long-term programme of work. It is vital that any changes we make are firmly rooted in strong evidence – and so we have commissioned independent research to help us understand exactly what victims need from us. This comprehensive victims’ needs assessment is the first we have undertaken, and it will enable us to play our part in improving victims’ experience across the entire criminal justice system. The Government recently published a draft Victims’ Bill, alongside a wider package of proposed measures to drive improvement in this area. This new legislation builds on existing obligations set out in the Victims’ Code of Practice, and strengthens what victims can expect from criminal justice agencies. Our independent research will support us as we play our vital role in delivering this work.  

These findings have been shaped and informed by experts in the field: those who work to support victims, practitioners from across the criminal justice system, and – crucially – victims themselves. I am very grateful to all those who have given their time, expertise, and insight throughout this process – and I am particularly grateful to the victims who have been generous enough to share their experiences.  

This report summarises the findings of the independent research, and outlines how we will take forward the recommendations to: 

  1. Improve the quality of communication for all victims, working with criminal justice partners to develop a new model  

  2. Enhance the service provided to those victims with the greatest needs  

  3. Innovate and pilot new ways to strengthen our engagement with victims  

  4. Build an organisational and leadership culture that prioritises engagement with victims  

These recommendations provide us with a clear direction as we move forward with our wide-ranging improvement work – but this is not the end of the conversation. We will continue to work closely with our criminal justice partners, stakeholders, the third sector and victims to shape an excellent service in the months and years to come. 

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions

A victim's route through the criminal justice system

The CPS plays an important role in victims’ and witnesses’ experiences but is part of a wider and more complex system.

Reporting a crime

The police will take a report from the victim and investigate the crime. The police will keep the victim up to date with the investigation.

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After a charge

After a charging decision has been made the police will keep the victim up to date with how the case is progressing and let them know if or when they’ll need to attend court.  

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Charging decision

The police make the charging decision for less serious offences. For more serious offences the police will send the case to the CPS and ask us to make a charging decision.

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The trial

If a case goes to trial a CPS staff member or a prosecution advocate will meet with the victim on the day to explain what will happen and answer any questions they may have.

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No charge - police

If the police decide not to make any charges in a case they will explain why. The victim has the right to request a review of this decision.

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The outcome

Once a trial has finished the police will let the victim know when there is an outcome in the case.

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No charge - CPS

If the CPS decides not to make any charges or to alter a charge or to discontinue a case we will explain why. The victim has the right to request a review of this decision.

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Support services

Throughout the criminal justice process victims can also access support from specialist victims support organisations or from organisations like the Witness Service for support around coming to court and giving evidence.

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