Coming forward as a victim
Being a victim of crime, committed by either a stranger or someone you know, can be both an upsetting and a confusing experience. However if you come forward the criminal justice organisations will treat you with respect and sensitivity. This page explains each stage of the justice process you will encounter, from the time a crime is reported, and the support available to you.
Reporting a crime to the police
No crime is too trivial to report. It may appear to be a minor crime but it can still be very upsetting. The police understand this and will take you and your case seriously.
If you have been the victim of a crime that you find difficult or embarrassing to talk about, for example a domestic assault or a sex offence, you may not want to report it. Please do. The police will be sensitive to your situation and will treat you with dignity and respect, and will not judge you in any way.
The police may ask you to make a statement. To do this an officer will ask you a number of questions to find out exactly what happened. The police realise that talking about what has happened can be difficult.
If a person is charged with the crime they may either be released on police bail or detained in police custody.
Going to court
When a crime has been investigated the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) will decide if there is enough evidence and if it is in the public interest to prosecute someone for the case. The PPS will also decide if prosecution at court is the best way to deal with a case.
You may not always have to give evidence in court. If the defendant is caught and pleads guilty, or if the defendant initially pleads not guilty but later changes their plea to guilty you would not need to give evidence.
But if you do have to give evidence it can help if you know what to expect and how to prepare.
If you do have to give evidence, witness services will be there to help and support you before, during and after your time at court, if you want. There is also a range of special measures to help ‘vulnerable’ and ‘intimidated’ witnesses give their best evidence in court.
The trial, verdict and sentencing
If a trial takes place the prosecution and defence call and examine witnesses and present to the judge and jury opposing versions of the case. After listening to all the evidence the magistrate, or jury (if a Crown Court), will decide on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by the judge or jury, they are convicted and the judge will pass sentence.
Victims of youth crime
If you have been the victim of a crime committed by someone under 18 you may be invited to attend a youth conference.
Help and support for victims
Once you have reported a crime to the police you will be asked if you would wish your contact details to be passed to Victim Support NI an independent local charity. If so, they will make contact with you to see if they can help you. If you do not want your name passed on you should tell the police officer who is dealing with your case.
Whether or not you choose to report the crime, you may want to contact Victim Support NI if you:
- want to talk, in confidence, to someone who can help you
- need information or practical help
- want to make a claim for criminal injuries compensation
- are going to court, either as an observer or as a witness
Victim information schemes
The Northern Ireland Prison Service runs the Prison Release Victim Information Scheme (PRVIS) which offers victims the opportunity to give and receive information about the prisoners who have been convicted of a crime against them.
Find out if you qualify for criminal injuries or criminal damage compensation at the following nidirect page.