Being a victim of crime can be distressing and upsetting. The police and other organisations are there to let you know how you can recover from the experience.
How the police can help:
The police are often the first people to help you if you're a victim of crime. They're used to helping people who are understandably scared and upset by the experience.
If the crime has just happened, they'll need to take a statement from you. The statement records exactly what happened in detail and will help the police to catch the offender.
They may also want to collect some evidence to help with their investigation. This may include fingerprints, photographs or some of your clothing. The police understand that this may be a distressing experience, so they'll be as sensitive as possible.
Dealing with distress
It's normal to feel more jumpy or on guard after experiencing a crime. It's important to remember that it's not your fault if something has happened to you and it's nothing to be ashamed of.
Your feelings after a crime has been committed may vary depending on the nature of the crime, so you may want confidential advice from someone who's been specially trained to help victims of a certain type of crime.
If you're upset, worried or scared after being involved in an incident, you may want to contact Victim Support - an independent National Charity that helps victims and witnesses of crime. You can call them on 0845 30 30 900. They have trained volunteers and you can talk to them in confidence.
You may be entitled to claim compensation if you've been a victim of a violent crime or if your belongings have been stolen or damaged. For example, if you work you may have to take time off to give a statement at a police station or replace your bike if it's been stolen.
There a number of ways of claiming compensation. Which one you use will depend on whether anyone has been convicted of the offence.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has put together some information about what to expect as a young victim or witness.
Attending court as a victim or witness
If someone is accused of a crime and is pleading their innocence, you may have to attend court to give evidence if you were a witness or a victim. You may be uneasy about having to go, so it's a good idea to know what will happen at court beforehand.
Do you have to go to court?
If you've given a statement to the police and the case goes to court, you don't always have to attend. Sometimes, the defendant's lawyers or representatives can agree with your evidence if they have no questions to put to you. If your evidence is agreed, your statement will simply be read out in court and you won't have to go.
However, if the police do contact you and say that you've been called as a witness, you will have to go to court. This means that you must have time off school, college or work. If you have to sit an exam or there's something else that you really can't get out of on the same day, contact the person that told you to attend court as soon as possible.
If you're nervous and worried about giving evidence, you might want one of your parents or another older relative to go to court with you for moral support. However, they won't be allowed to stand next to you when you give your evidence.
If you're under 17, the court may class you as a vulnerable witness and ask that special measures be taken when you give your evidence. These measures may include:
- having a screen around the witness box
- sitting in a different room and giving your evidence through a video link
- letting the other side question you before the trial and playing the recording of this in court
The judge or magistrate has the final say about whether special measures are used, but they will ask you how you feel about giving evidence as part of their decision.
www.youandco.org has put together some really useful information around going to court. It includes an interactive courtroom, information on preparing for court, being a witness and what happens after court.
Stop and Search
To help prevent crime and protect the safety of the public, the police can stop people and ask them to account for themselves in some circumstances. However, they're not allowed to search someone just because of the way they look.
What is stop and search?
Stop and search means that police officers and community support officers can stop you and ask questions about what you're doing in that area. You may be stopped on the street or in your car. When the police stop you they may decide to search you.
The power to search also allows the police to detain you in order to search you if they suspect you might be carrying an illegal substance, a stolen item or something that could be used as a weapon or to help you commit an offence.
What happens when you're stopped?
If you are stopped by the police, it doesn't automatically mean that they think you've done something wrong and it's not the same as being arrested. They could be asking you for help or checking if you've seen anything suspicious happening in the last few minutes.
Unless you fit the description of someone who's suspected of committing a crime, or there is a specific Section 60 authorisation the police are not allowed to search you just on the basis of your race, religion, age or the clothes that you're wearing.
What the police have to do
If the police stop you and use their power to search you they must give you the below information
- their name and what station they are from
- tell you why they have stopped you and what they are looking for.
- tell you the law under which you are being searched.
- show you their warrant card if they are not in uniform.
- you are entitled to a copy of your search record
When police want to search you, they must tell you that you have been detained for the purpose of a search. You may be asked to empty your pockets, open your bag, or take off your coat and other ‘outer garments’ so they can make sure you're not hiding the item they are looking for. The officer may only ask you to take off ‘outer garments’ if they are searching you on the street. If the police want to remove your clothing they must take you to a private place, and if you are under 18 and the police are asking you to remove your clothes, they should have an appropriate adult present. The officer who performs the search must also be the same sex as you.
How to complain:
If you think that you've been treated unfairly and feel you've only been stopped because of your race, your religion or the clothes that you wear, you can make a complaint.
The form, or the reference number that you were given when you were stopped should contain all the details, so you can take your complaint to the Police.
If you're not satisfied with the answers you get, or if you want further advice before making a complaint, your local Citizens' Advice Bureau will be able to help you.
Find out more
Visit the following links to find out more about other types of crime: