Coming forward as a victim

Being a victim of crime, can be an upsetting and confusing experience. However, criminal justice bodies will treat you with respect and sensitivity. This page explains the justice process, from the time a crime is reported, and the support available to you.

Reporting a crime

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 are a victim of crime, or if you have witnessed a crime, you should contact the police as soon as possible.

Find out more about reporting a crime.

Support services

Once you have reported a crime,  the police will ask you if you would like your contact details to be passed to Victim Support NI. Victim Support NI is an independent local charity, working with victims of crime or abuse.  

If you're are ok with this, Victim Support NI will contact you to offer help and support. If you do not want your name passed on you should tell the police officer who is dealing with your case.

Even if you don't report the crime to the police, you can still contact Victim Support NI for help and support.

Find out more about help and support for victims.

Police investigation

The police will investigate the crime you have reported and check what support you need. They will refer you to Victim Support NI, unless you ask them not to.

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.

The police will update you within 10 days and tell you whether a suspect has been identified. If there is no suspect or there is not enough evidence, the investigation may be closed.

For less serious crimes, the police may deal with the case through ‘police discretion’, which means that it does not have to go to court.

If a person is charged with the crime they may either be released on police bail or detained in police custody.

Find out more about how the police will investigate a crime.

Going to court

After the crime has been investigated, if the police send a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), a prosecutor will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to court and whether it is in the public interest for this to happen.

In some cases, the prosecutor may decide against bringing a case to court. An alternative to prosecution, such as a caution, may be used.

The Victim and Witness Care Unit, of the PPS, will let you know the decision. Find out more about how the decision to prosecute a crime is made.

If the case is going to court, the Unit will check what support you need and give you information on how to make a victim personal statement. They will also tell you whether you have to give evidence at court.

Preparing for court

Depending on your age, you can get support from Victim Support NI’s Witness Service (for adults aged 18 or over) or the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service (if you are under 18). This may include visiting the court so that you have a better idea of what to expect.

Find out more about going to court as a victim or witness.

The trial and giving evidence

You may not always have to give evidence in court.

If you do have to give evidence, the Victim and Witness Care Unit will be there to tell you what's happening, what you need to do and to give you help and support. 

If you have additional needs, some extra help (known as ‘special measures’) may be provided if you want this and the judge agrees.

Find more about what happens at a trial and witness services and special court measures.

Outcome of the trial

The Victim and Witness Care Unit will tell you about the verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, or pleads guilty, they will tell you about any sentence given and what this means.

Sentencing, probation and prison

If the offender who committed a crime against you has been found guilty and sentenced to time in prison, hospital or on probation you can register to receive and give information about them. This could be the offender’s release date or giving your views on temporary release applications.

The police and the Public Prosecution Service’s Victim and Witness Care Unit will give you information about the relevant victim information scheme.

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