After a crime has been reported
If you are a victim of crime and contact the police the investigating officer should give you their contact details as well as the leaflet, 'Information for victims of crime'. You should also receive a letter with more detail about the investigation (unless you have asked not to be contacted).
Generally the police will make a judgement based on the information provided to them as to what investigation will be carried out. A police investigation will involve the police speaking to you about the incident.
If the crime is serious or sensitive, then a detective may be appointed to investigate. The police also have specially trained officers to deal with specific crime such as sexual crime, hate related incidents and domestic violence. You will be able to speak to an officer of the same sex if you wish.
In some cases the police may decide they do not need to speak to you again during their investigation.
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.
If you have a difficulty understanding English, or if you are deaf or hard of hearing, an interpreter will be called to assist you.
If the offence has just happened, officers may ask you to tour the nearby area with them to help identify the offender, or they may ask you to look at photographs or CCTV images to try to pick out the offender.
Sometimes the police will need to take samples from where the crime took place.
You may be asked to help by providing elimination fingerprints. A specially trained crime-scene investigator will usually do this.
If you have been injured the police may want to photograph your injuries or have your injuries examined by a doctor engaged by the police. If you agree to an examination the doctor will record any injuries. You do not have to consent to a medical examination, but it can provide vital evidence which the police may not be able to get from anywhere else, and it may help identify who was responsible for the attack.
Taking part in an identity procedure
If the police have a suspect for an offence and the identity of that person is in dispute, they may wish to carry out an identity procedure. In this case, you will be asked to pick out the person who you think committed the alleged offence.
In order to carry out the identification procedure the police may use one of several methods including a process known as Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording - commonly known as 'VIPER'.
This means that the identification procedure is prepared in the form of a DVD disc and will be shown to you by the police officer on a laptop or computer. The advantage of this electronic process is that you can view the DVD disc in places other than the police station, such as at home, should you prefer.
What happens next
Depending on the type of crime, it can take quite a long time to gather all the information that is needed.
The police may need to get advice and guidance from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to help in the investigation. This will usually be to do with the type of evidence needed or whether evidence will be used in court.
The police may also ask the PPS for advice about what charges, if any, should be brought against a suspect. Once a suspect has been charged with a criminal offence, they are known as the defendant. The police will then send a case file to the PPS who will decide if a court case is to go ahead.
If you are a victim of crime and the police have not identified someone for the crime committed against you after three months, you should be told.