What happens when I report a crime?
Investigating crimes, catching criminals and protecting the community is the police’s main job, but they also help victims and witnesses of crime.
Even if you don’t report a crime as the victim, someone who saw what happened might do, so it’s likely that you will have to talk to police after a crime.
If you do report a crime the police will explain what will happen next. They should also give you the contact details of the police officer dealing with your case and a crime reference number. Make a note of this number somewhere safe – you will need it if you want to contact the police again about the incident, or if you want to make an insurance or compensation claim.
When you report a crime the police should also ask you if you are happy for your details to be passed to Victim Support. If you say yes, we will automatically get your contact information and brief details about the crime. We’ll then contact you to see how we can help. If you don’t want us to contact you, tell the police officer. You can change your mind later and you can contact us directly at any time for help and support.
Making a statement
Once a crime has been reported, the police will start their investigation and try to find evidence. As the victim, they’ll need to talk to you and collect as much information as possible so that they can write up a statement. If you find it difficult or upsetting to talk to the police, you can ask for a break at any point.
Victim Personal Statement
After the interview, you will be asked to read the statement and check that it is correct. The police will then ask you to sign it. They should also give you the chance to make a separate Victim Personal Statement – this is your chance to say how the crime has affected you, and it will be taken into account during trial.
The police may also need to collect evidence from where the crime took place, such as photos or fingerprints. If you’ve been injured in a violent attack or suffered a sexual crime, the police will ask you whether you agree to have a medical examination. It’s your decision, but remember that this may be an opportunity to get forensic evidence that can help bring an attacker to justice.
Keeping you informed
Investigations can take some time. The police will give you the name and phone number of the officer or ‘crime desk’ responsible for your case and will keep you informed of developments – you can also contact the police by calling 101. Have your crime number ready so that they can identify your case quickly.
What will happen after the police investigation?
If the police find the person who committed the crime, there are a number of things that could happen.
Issuing a caution
The police may decide to caution the person (unless they are a young offender, in which case they may get a reprimand or final warning). With young offenders they may suggest a restorative justice approach. This could include asking you if you want to attend a restorative conference, where you would meet the offender along with a trained restorative justice facilitator.
A restorative justice meeting is completely voluntary. It can give you the chance to ask the offender questions and tell them how their crime has affected you.
Taking the case to court
The case will go to court if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides that there is enough evidence and that it is in the public interest to prosecute the person accused. The police do not decide the outcome of a case; they collect evidence and pass it to the CPS.
The CPS has to consider the impact the crime has had on you, the victim, in making a decision about whether or not they should prosecute. It should also take into account the views of your family. You can find out more information on the CPS website.
Attending court as a witness
If the CPS does prosecute, and the defendant pleads guilty, you won’t have to go to court.
But if the defendant pleads ‘not guilty’ or denies part of the offence, you might have to give evidence if you were a witness to the crime (some victims are not witnesses if, for example, they were burgled when they were away from home). If you are not needed as a witness at court, the police should still keep you informed about what happens in the case.
Find out more about going to court.