It was once the case that following conviction of an offender, the courts would, when it came to sentencing, only take account of the nature of the offence and the individual before them. However, for many years now the courts have also taking account of the impact of a crime upon an individual. Having been ignored for many years, the victims of crime can now explain in their own way the consequences of a crime, upon them, whether emotionally, physically, financially or psychologically. This is particularly important for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, who often feel they were never listened to, never believed and ignored.
Explanations of the consequences of a crime helps many agencies, including the courts, to understand the impact of crime and to give the words of the victim appropriate weight when it comes to sentencing the offender.
The contents of a Victim Personal Statement should not express the victim's views on the type or level of punishment for the offender, as that is for the court to decide. Indeed, if such views are expressed in a Victim Personal Statement those elements of the statement will be removed before it is considered by the court, when sentencing.
The Victim Personal Statement is all about the consequences upon the victim and therefore this statement should cover the following areas, depending upon the circumstances of each crime:
- Any physical, financial, emotional or psychological injury they have suffered and/or any treatment they have received as a result of the crime;
- If they feel vulnerable or intimidated;
- If they no longer feel safe;
- The impact on their family;
- How the quality of their life has changed on a day-to-day basis;
- If they need additional support, for example, if they are likely to appear as a witness at the trial
- The ongoing impact of the crime on their lives.
Beyond using the Victim Personal Statement at the time of sentencing the offender, a statement may be submitted to a parole hearing, where it will also be considered.
The Victim Personal Statement is most likely to be used by the court during the course of sentencing, whether an individual was found guilty following a trial, or whether they pleaded guilty (thereby avoiding a trial).
The court will consider a range of information when considering the appropriate sentence, which includes the Victim Personal Statement as this helps the court understand how the crime has affected the victim. The statement may impact on the severity of the sentence passed.
It is recommended that all victims of a crime are given the option to make a Victim Personal Statement. However, it is not mandatory; it is a matter of individual choice as to whether a person makes a statement. However, they should have explained to them, clearly, the purpose of the statement and the way in which this will be considered by a court. Having understood the purpose, they can then tell the police officer, who usually drafts the statement, the full impact of the crime upon them.
In respect of childhood sexual abuse victims, it is helpful not just to focus on recent emotions but also on the consequences through their adult life, whether it be in respect of mental health issues, relationship difficulties, education, or work. All aspects of life affected should be referred to in the statement.
If the victim wishes to make a statement then this can be given at the same time as giving their account of the crime, to the police. If a statement is not made at this stage then there is the possibility of a victim personal statement being made later in the case, or being updated during the course of the criminal proceedings. However, there is a risk that if they do not take the first opportunity to make a statement they may not get another chance. This is because some cases will proceed through the criminal courts quite quickly.
It is important for the victim to understand that should they give a statement, it will be shared with the Crown Prosecution Service and the defendant, so it is important to be alive to the fact that the offender will usually be able to see the Victim Personal Statement.
If the survivor of childhood sexual abuse wishes to pursue a claim for compensation against their abuser or those legally responsible for the actions of the abuser, their solicitor will be able to obtain access to the statement, which can be used to demonstrate the harm caused and help obtain the right level of compensation. This applies whether a claim is pursued against the abuser or a claim is made under the government scheme for compensation.
To find out more about claiming compensation if you are a victim of a violent crime, call us today on 0333 123 9099, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on the right to request a call back.