Victims' interests will be taken into account by all public prosecutors under a pledge launched today by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith. It will apply throughout a criminal prosecution, from charge to appeal.
The pledge calls on the prosecutor, where there is an identified victim, to:
- Take into account the impact on the victim or their family when making a charging decision;
- Inform the victim where the charge is withdrawn, discontinued or substantially altered;
- Seek a victim's view where practicable - or that of the family - when considering the acceptability of a guilty plea;
- Address the specific needs of a victim and, where justified, seek to protect the victim's identity by making an appropriate application to the court;
- Assist victims at court to refresh their memory from written or video statements and answer their questions on court procedure and processes;
- Encourage two-way communications between victim and prosecutor at court;
- Protect victims from unwarranted or irrelevant attacks on their character and seek court intervention where cross-examination is considered inappropriate or oppressive;
- Challenge mitigation, after conviction, which is derogatory to a victim's character;
- Apply on conviction for compensation, restitution or future protection of the victim;
- Keep victims informed of the progress of any appeal and explain the effect of the court's judgment.
Lord Goldsmith said that in the past prosecutors were accused of being remote, distant and not wishing to engage with victims.
Whether a victim was spoken to by the prosecutor at court was a lottery and prosecutors rarely, if ever, explained why they had brought charges or accepted a plea of guilty.
He concluded: "Over the past five years, there have been significant strides made in the delivery by prosecutors of services to victims of crime."
The pledge will apply not only to the Crown Prosecution Service, but also to the Serious Fraud Office, the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office and Department for Trade and Industry prosecutors.