Victims Right to a Review (VRR)

Victims Right to a Review (VRR) relates to a right for a victim to ask for a review of a decision not to prosecute a suspect.

The right of a victim to request such a review was considered in the case of R v Killick and is set out in Article 11 of the EU Directive on Victims (EU Directive), which came into effect in November 2015. Article 11 of the EU Directive provides that, 'Member States shall ensure that victims....have the right to a review of a decision not to prosecute', and the Directive makes clear that this includes decisions made by, 'law enforcement authorities such as Police Officers'.

There is a separate avenue for requesting a review of a CPS decision not to prosecute; details of this can be found on the CPS website.

Police VRR will only apply to cases in which a suspect has been identified and interviewed under caution, either following an arrest or by voluntary arrangement. An 'interview' in this context relates to situations where a suspect has an allegation put to them in some detail as opposed to limited questioning that might take place in the immediate aftermath of an incident, for instance during a stop and search.

Police VRR will only apply to decisions that were made on or after 1 April 2015. The scheme does not apply retrospectively to decisions taken before that date.

The following cases DO NOT fall within the scope of Police VRR:

  1. Cases where no suspect has been identified and interviewed, for instance investigations that are filed 'at source'
  2. Cases where charges are brought in respect of some (but not all) allegations made or against some (but not all) possible suspects
  3. Cases where a charge is brought that relates to the matter complained about by the victim but the offence charged differs from the crime that was recorded; for instance the suspect is charged with common assault but an offence of actual bodily harm has been recorded
  4. Cases which are concluded by way of out of court disposal; and
  5. Cases where the victim retracts their complaint or refuses to co-operate with the investigation and a decision is therefore taken not to charge/not to refer the case to the CPS for a charging decision

It should be noted that VRR specifically relates to decisions not to prosecute and does not cover crime recording decisions or decisions not to continue with enquiries.

Police VRR will only apply to National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) offences.

Any victim in a qualifying case where a decision is made not to prosecute is entitled to seek a review of that decision.

A victim is defined as per The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime 2013 (Victims' Code): 'a person who has suffered harm, including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by criminal conduct'.

This includes:

  • Close relatives of a person whose death was directly caused by criminal conduct
  • Parents or guardians where the main victim is a child or youth under 18
  • Police Officers who are victims of crime
  • Family spokespersons of victims with a disability or who are so badly injured that they cannot communicate; and
  • Businesses, providing they give a named point of contact

When a victim requests a review of a decision it should be acknowledged within 10 working days.

Victims should be allowed to request a review within 3 months of being notified of the case being filed, as this is the period during which they can request a judicial review.

Forces should, wherever possible, complete the review and communicate the decision to the victim within an overall timeframe of 30 working days (i.e. 6 weeks from receipt of the request from the victim).

Where the case is particularly complex or sensitive, it may not be possible to provide a VRR decision within the usual time limits. In such cases, forces should notify the victim accordingly and provide regular updates on the progress of the review.

There are six potential outcomes of a review:

  1. The original decision to take no further action is upheld
  2. The original decision is overturned and proceedings are commenced against the suspect, i.e. they are charged/summonsed
  3. The original decision is overturned and the suspect is dealt with by way of an out of court disposal
  4. The original decision is overturned and the case is referred to the CPS for a charging decision
  5. It is determined that further enquires need to be completed before the reviewing officer can make their decision
  6. The original decision is overturned but the case is statute-barred and proceeding cannot be instigated

A victim who remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the police review and wishes to pursue the matter further can apply to the High Court for a judicial review.

It is possible that a victim could appeal a Police decision not to prosecute resulting in that decision being overturned and the matter being referred to the CPS for a charging decision.  The CPS could then decide to take no further action and the victim would then be entitled to ask for a review of the CPS decision under the CPS VRR scheme and ultimately to refer the matter for a judicial review.