Victims of crime can often feel abandoned by the criminal justice system, and failed either by a decision not to prosecute, or by the investigative or prosecution processes themselves.
Hickman & Rose is dedicated to ensuring that no-one is deprived of the law’s protection. Our lawyers seek redress for victims who have been let down by the criminal justice system, or whom the system further victimises.
If you are the victim of a crime which you reported to the police, and you have since been informed that either the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (‘CPS’) has decided not to proceed with criminal proceedings against the perpetrator, you may be able to challenge that decision under the police or the CPS’s ‘Right to Review’ scheme (‘VRR’).
In order to pursue the CPS’s VRR scheme, you must be a) personally harmed directly as a result of the perpetrator’s criminal conduct and b) the CPS’s decision must have made a ‘qualifying decision’ in your case.
A ‘qualifying decision’ means one of:
On making one of the above decisions, the CPS should give a written explanation to the victim of what decision has been made, on what basis it was made, how to get further information about the decision and how to exercise the right to a review.
The CPS’s VRR scheme asks that a request for a review is made within five days of the date of the letter notifying the victim of the decision. However, the CPS will consider a request for a review made up to three months from the date of that letter.
Only in “exceptional circumstances” will a request for a review made outside of the three month period be considered.
The review process
In the first stage of the CPS’s review process, the decision in question will be checked by a prosecutor who was not involved in the original decision but who does work within the same CPS regional area as the original decision-maker. The reviewing prosecutor should consider whether any errors were made in reaching the decision and whether the explanation for the decision given to the victim was sufficiently clear and detailed.
There are three possible outcomes at this stage. They are:
The ‘independent prosecutor’ is someone who had no involvement in the original decision. They must consider all of the available evidence and make a completely fresh decision.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the second-stage independent review, there is no further challenge available within the CPS’s Right to Review scheme. The only way it might be possible to challenge such a decision is by way of an application for judicial review.
It is important to note that an application for judicial review must be lodged at court as soon as possible after the decision was made and no later than three months from the date of the decision.
It is possible, in certain circumstances, to challenge a police force’s decision not to charge someone through the relevant police force’s own ‘Right to Review’ schemes. Police review schemes vary between forces, but they are a one-stage process, where an officer within the same force but who was not at all involved in the initial decision considers all of the available evidence and reaches a fresh decision.
Where a criminal case is particularly complex (for example, due to the type of evidence or the legal issues involved) the police should refer the matter to the CPS for their input. Anyone who considers that the police decided not to charge in their complex case without not referring the case to the CPS should seek legal advice without delay.
The availability of Legal Aid for representation in relation to a right to review scheme will depend on the individual’s financial eligibility and the nature of the challenge.
Our criminal justice system does not provide the opportunity for a victim of crime to have their own chosen lawyer acting for them in criminal proceedings because their role is as a witness for the prosecution. There is therefore no legal aid available to generally advise or represent to a victim of crime in the criminal proceedings themselves.
Victims of crime may be entitled to compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
In certain circumstances, if the police have failed to effectively investigate an allegation of very serious criminal conduct, the victim may be entitled to compensation from the police force in question [see ‘Challenging Police Powers’]. Victims of potential criminal conduct by a police officer may be able to seek additional or alternative remedies. [see ‘Police Complaints’].
Hickman & Rose has extensive experience of challenging criminal justice system failures.
We have brought challenges on behalf of a wide range of individuals in relation to a broad spectrum of criminal allegations. We acted in one of the first successful VRR challenges, for the family member of a vulnerable man who died in police custody, to ensure that charges were brought against an officer in relation to his death.
Our solicitors have also acted for victims of serious sexual violence and, in one instance, secured charges against a suspect on novel facts which led to the first conviction of its kind.
We understand that challenging a qualifying decision can be traumatic and intimidating, particularly where the crime you have reported is particularly serious or sensitive in nature.
Where appropriate, we can request additional information from the police or CPS, so that you are able to make a decision to request a review with the benefit of more information. We will examine all of the evidence which is available to you and ensure that the integrity of all of that evidence is properly preserved. We can then advise you on the likelihood of a successful challenge.
As we guide you through the criminal justice system’s processes, we will fight to ensure that you have a fair opportunity to make any relevant representations to the decision-making body in question. We will work with you to prepare such representations to bolster your challenge, to maximise the chance that the review will achieve desired outcome.
When a review is successful, we will also prepare you for what to expect next, so that you feel informed and empowered to take part in any subsequent criminal proceedings.
We are able to offer advice and assistance in respect of VRR schemes on either a publicly or privately funded basis.