Victim Awareness Course (VAC)

The Victim Awareness Course (VAC) is a simple and meaningful option for an offender (aged 18 or over) who has committed a low level volume crime and has been diverted from prosecution through the issuing of a Conditional Caution or a Community Resolution.

The VAC was developed with victims at its heart and aims to reduce re-offending by helping people to:

  • understand the impact that their actions have on victims, their loved ones, themselves and the wider community
  • reconsider their attitudes and beliefs that support crime
  • take personal responsibility for their actions
  • identify what they could do differently in future.

The VAC is not designed to humiliate or hold offenders to account.

The three-hour course is delivered during evenings and weekends by accredited Victim Support trainers at a suitable local venue within a referring police force area.

Offenders pay a £75 fee to attend the course. We reinvest any excess money not required to run the courses to continue our work supporting victims of crime. There is an initial set up cost for each police force and then the course is self-funding as long as a sufficient number of referrals are made.

Offenders must attend the course, take part and not be disruptive. We will inform the referring police force of any breach upon which police procedures take effect. We also inform the referring police force of successful completion of the course. 

Every offender referred to us is sent information about the terms and conditions of attending the course.

The types of offences referred for a VAC are typically low-value theft, common assault, public order offences under section 4a and section 5 of the Public Order Act, or low-value criminal damage.

The course may be suitable for an offender with previous convictions, especially where other sanctions have failed or the nature of the offending behaviour is different to the previous convictions.

There are some cases where the VAC is not suitable. For further information about referral criteria, see our guidance on the suitability of the VAC.

Offenders with additional needs

The VAC is designed to be inclusive and we will make reasonable adjustments to enable offenders to participate fully. The activities cater for a range of learning styles and readability tests show that the reading age of the workbook is at around nine years-old.

Each course is also supported by our volunteers who can provide additional support to attendees where required; for example, by helping with reading or writing difficulties, learning difficulties, mental health issues or mobility issues.

Offenders must be able to understand English to attend the course.  Unfortunately we are unable to allow interpreters as this is too disruptive to the rest of the group.

If an out of court disposal is suitable and VAC is the most appropriate course of action, then police simply need to follow the usual Conditional Caution or Community Resolution process, stipulating the VAC as a requirement.

While referral processes vary from force to force, Victim Support will be passed the key details of attendees. On referral of an offender, we co-ordinate all related activities including:

  • contacting the offenders
  • scheduling attendance
  • securing payment
  • informing the referring police force of successful completion
  • informing the referring police force of any breach, e.g. non-attendance, failure to engage or unacceptable behaviour while attending the course.
The course draws on evidence about what works to reduce reoffending. The VAC has been independently evaluated in partnership with Portsmouth University. The evaluation found that:

  • 89% of attendees said the course had helped them to think about the behaviour which led them to having to attend the VAC.
  • 70% said they would ‘definitely’ behave differently in future as a result of the course.
  • 77% of VAC attendees either agreed or strongly agreed that the course helped them to look at the victim’s perspective on the crime.
  • 86% said the course had helped them to think about how the victim might feel as a result of their offending behaviour.

Working with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), we have developed a Theory of Change to show how we believe these outcomes contribute to reduced reoffending.

We are committed to ensuring that VAC is evidence-based and we will look to work with police forces in future to evaluate its impact on reoffending rates.

If you would like to find out more, discuss how we can help you implement the VAC within your police force, or to give us feedback, please email us at