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Victims' rights

Our public law and civil liberties department at Stephensons have experience in advising both victims of crime and families of deceased on matters arising from incidents that can be life changing.

This includes advice on inquest related matters and any subsequent civil claim for breaches of the Human Rights Act or other causes of action.

The can also assist in respect of decisions by the police and CPS on whether to prosecute.


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Decisions on whether to prosecute

A decision not to continue with a criminal investigation or prosecution can have a profound impact on victims of crime or relatives of a deceased person whose death may have been caused or contributed to by the actions of another. These decisions are not, unfortunately, always correct.

Under current rules, victims are entitled to seek a review of a decision made by either the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute. This is commonly known as a ‘Victims’ Right of Review’ (VRR).

Victim Right of Review

A request to review a decision can be made usually within three months of the decision by the police or CPS and should set out why it is considered that the decision is incorrect.

The procedure for applying for a review and the decision making process are largely similar for decisions made by either the police or CPS; but each police force may have their own specific procedures that needs to be followed.

Who can apply for a review?

Only victims can apply for a review.

A victim is defined as:

“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
  • Businesses, providing they give a named point of contact

What decisions can be reviewed

A decision not to prosecute is one that can be reviewed.

What constitutes a decision not to prosecute, however, can vary depending on whether you are seeking to review a decision made by the CPS or the police. The guidance in relation to decisions made by the police can vary depending on the force that made the decision. 

What decisions cannot be reviewed

A decision that is unrelated to a decision not to prosecute is one that cannot be reviewed.

Specific guidance is, again, dependant on whether you are reviewing a CPS or police decision.

Importantly – if applying to review a CPS decision, the decision has to be one made after 5 June 2013. If applying to review a decision made by the police, the decision is one that was made after 1 April 2015.

Deadline for applying for a review

The deadline for applying for a review is, generally, three months from the date of notification of the decision.

It is, however, always best to get an application in as soon as reasonably possible as this will allow more time for something to be done about the decision.

How to apply for a review

Any paperwork that is sent to you by the police or the CPS should include details for how to lodge an application for a review.

The process should, however, be as straightforward as sending a letter or email. It should include details about the case and reasons for the application.

What are the potential outcomes?

The possible outcomes depends on whether you are applying to the police or CPS.

Applications to the CPS undergo a two-stage process: i) a local review; and ii) an independent review.


  • The original decision of no further action is upheld;
  • The original decision is overturned and the suspect is charged or summonsed;
  • The original decision is overturned and the suspect is cautioned;
  • The original decision is overturned and the case is referred to the CPS for a charging decision;
  • The investigation is reopened and further enquiries are requested by the reviewing officer to enable a decision to be made; or
  • The original decision is overturned but due to certain offences being subject to time limits proceedings can no longer be instigated.


The local review

  1. The decision is deemed to be wrong, efforts will be made to recommence proceedings and if proceedings cannot be recommenced an explanation and an apology will be provided; or
  2. The decision was right but the CPS decide that more information should have been provided, in which case you will be contacted within ten working days to be asked whether you want an independent review; or
  3. The decision was right and no further information is available, in which case the matter proceeds directly to independent review.

The independent review

  1. The decision was right; or
  2. The decision was wrong

If you are deemed to be an enhanced victim (victims of the most serious of crimes, victims who are persistently targeted or vulnerable or intimidated victims), you will be offered a meeting to discuss the outcome

Stephensons have experience of making applications to both the police and CPS in respect of decisions not to prosecute arising from various scenarios.

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