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Friday, March 31, 2006

Victims Code of Practice

This comes into effect very soon, and you can view it here

What it means, in effect, is that anyone who has made an allegation of being directly subjected to criminal conduct, is legally obliged to a minimum standard of service when having their investigation deal with. It doesn't matter if the police think the allegation is a pile of crap, or that noone has been charged or convicted of an offence relating to the conduct, the victim still get the same services.

I'll focus on the part relevant to the police. Wherever I say x working days, substitute that with one working day for vulnerable/intimidated witnesses.

First off, if we decide there is to be no investigation, we must inform the victim within five working days; tell them we are referring them to Victim Support unless they ask us not to and must provide victim details to the local VSG no later than two working days after the allegation.

During investigations, we must provide victims with periodical monthly updates. For serious ones, if we don't charge anyone we have to tell the victim why.

If someone is arrested, we must inform the victim within five working days. If they are released NFA (no further action), we must notify the victim and give them the reasons for this within five working days.

If the suspect is on police bail, we must inform the victim of this, the reasons for bail and any bail conditions, within five working days. Any changes or cancellation to bail must also be communicated.

If a suspect is either interviewed or reported, we must notify the victim of this, and the fact that a file will be submitted for a decision on prosecution or summons. This must be within three working days.

A decision whether or not to prosecute must be communicated, within five working days, and if a decision is made not to prosecute, that must be communicated by the party who made that decision (be it police or CPS), with the reasons why. If a suspect is charged or not, we must communicate this to the victim within five working days.

We must communicate details of any bail to appear in court, conditions and the date of appearance, and any subsequent variation in bail conditions, including details of the variation and actions the victim can take if a breach of bail occures.

If we are applying for a remand in custody we must inform the victim, and must also inform them as to whether or not this is successful, and if unsuccessful inform the victim of the usual bail information as described above.

Finally, we must inform the victim of any other means of disposal (ie a caution, fixed penalty notice or reprimand/final warning) and whether or not a summons has been issued, along with their next appearance date.

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In anticipation of this, I'm working on a Word template! I plan to mailmerge the victim's name and address in, and then copy and paste a selection of pre-written paragraphs that convey the necessary progress/update information in, then fill in the blanks as regards dates and times. This way I won't need to keep typing out the same letter, or variations of that letter, for the 15 victims of the 15 crimes I am simultaenously investigating at the moment, and can get the update stuff done pretty quickly, meeting the statutory deadlines easily and effectively. If computers didn't exist and they introduced this system I would resign.

I'll start asking victims of crime for e-mail address, and inviting them to start Gmail accounts if they haven't got one! It could be a problem for some of my customers, though, as the only computers they know are the one that process the sale for their crates of Stella.

Some may argue that we should always do this for all our crimes as a matter of course anyway. Simple fact is that I don't, and I doubt many other officers do as a matter of course, unless it's particularly important that I notify the victim of a particular aspect of the investigation. I certainly wouldn't have dreamt of updating each and every victim on a regular basis as to how my investigation is coming along, especially as the non-urgent ones have been put on the back burner whilst the crimes which have a statutory time limit for investigation are prioritised.

Most of my letters would look like this:

"Dear Sir,

In April's Edition of Bow Street Runner Update, I am sad to say that the status of your crime remains the same as it did last month - enquiries ongoing. This is because I am struggling to ensure that the ones that are more likely to result in a straightforward detection are boxed off before the end of March, so that our area can meet the detections target for the financial year.

I'm not ignoring your crime, it's just that it isn't likely to add to our detection level if I prioritise it, and I get a tick in the box if I advance others. Terribly sorry old bean!"

(c) Bow Street Runner. None of the material contained in this post, or this blog as a whole, may be reproduced without the express and written permission of Bow Street Runner. All rights reserved.
Comments:
Sounds good for the victim, being kept informed, but how are you going to keep up to date with it ?! How many cases do you have on the go at any one time ?
 
Thanks for the knowledge Bow Street Runner, they 'forgot' to train me on Victims Code. They did offer for me to do the training in my own time though...
 
Some of the rules and regulations are already in place. We shouldn't be able to file a crime, either detected or undetected, unless the victim has been informed.

If the Government want us to improve "customer service" they should remove the PIs for detections, because the two targets are incompatible. Officers are forced to chase the detection in order to improve figures, rather than investigate the crimes that cause people the most distress.
 
This is the ideal sort of work for a civilian staffed department. Whilst keeping the victim informed is important, our job is to investigate and solve crime the rest can be dealt with by desk monkeys. We already have an administrative burden that is far too high. Just adding a few more phone calls to the equation is not good enough solution. "Oh PCs will do it", like we don't have enough bloody work to do already...
 
How does it make sense to have civilian officers - sorry, "Community Support Whatevers" - with little or no power on the street, and then ask real police officers to do all the paperwork? More sense, surely, to hire your teams an admin assistant?
 
Our force recommends texting your victims. When we queried how exactly we were supposed to text them the reply from up high was 'You all own mobile phones don't you?'
Yeah, I ain't using that though - the only number the public get to contact me is the HQs or '999'.
Or, in other words, sod that.
 
In the grand total of one crime I have been a victim of, the police haven't got back to me at all about the progress of the case, which I suspect has been quietly filed under 'hopeless RTA that we'll never track down the runaway party in'. Even if it has been quietly dropped (which I wouldn't blame them for, our descriptions were bloody awful), I'd kind of like to know.

I definitely support them spending their money on a couple of typing monkeys rather than expensive Fake Patrolling Police, though; public services being starved of admin support is a common problem and it is rather daft and rubbish that it hsould be the cawse.
 
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