Victims and witnesses need clear communication, says Citizens Advice
Citizens Advice has today called for the Crown Prosecution Service to make every effort to support victims and witnesses by clearly explaining why decisions have been taken about a case, keeping them informed of where and when they are expected to give evidence, and providing information on available support.
Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) today released a report finding that letters sent by CPS sometimes give contradictory or not enough information, are not delivered on time or lack empathy for a victim’s circumstances.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Victims and witnesses of crime can be left feeling at sea in the justice system without the right support.
“For many people giving evidence in a court case it will be their first experience of the justice system, and they may be unsure of the process. That's why it is really important the Crown Prosecution Service makes sure it keeps victims and witnesses fully informed of where and when they will be expected to give evidence, and explains clearly why decisions are taken about a case. It is also vital that details of available support are provided before and during a trial. It is a particular concern that victims of domestic abuse are often not being given the information they need to access specialist support in letters sent to them.
"Seven in ten victims we help through the Witness Service do not know their rights under the Victims’ Code, including guarantees of timely information and the right to review a decision not to prosecute. This gap underlines the importance of clear communication from criminal justice agencies like the Crown Prosecution Service, so people are confident providing evidence.
“Criminal justice agencies like the police and the Crown Prosecution Service working closely together is crucial to avoid duplication and contradictory information. By giving victims and witnesses the right information, their experience of the justice system can be made empowering instead of confusing.”
Notes to editors
- The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free practical and emotional support for witnesses in all criminal courts across England and Wales. The Witness Service is run by nearly 2,500 volunteers and 300 staff and its independent support is offered to anyone to called to give evidence.
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
- Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.