Victim Right of Review: Challenging a Police or CPS Decision
This article will explore a victim’s rights when disagreeing with a decision made by the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute a suspect.
The police have investigatory powers and present their evidence to the CPS. The CPS are a body that determines whether there is a suitable amount of evidence to persuade a court that a person committed the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
What legal test to the Police and CPS apply?
The police and CPS will have to assess the following to determine whether to pursue a conviction:
- Evidential test – is there enough evidence to provide “a realistic prospect of conviction” against each Defendant.
This should be an objective appraisal of the evidence collated at the time. Additionally, the police and the CPS should continually keep this under review. For example, this may be due to new evidence, or information that may discredit existing evidence.
- Public interest test – whether the public interest factors weigh against or in favour of a prosecution.
For example, at times, it is deemed not in the public interest to criminalise lesser offences committed by those who may have been mentally unwell. In some scenarios, the police may consider the fact that the individual is now receiving medical treatment as sufficient. However, this will not always be the case as there are sentencing powers for those committing crimes who were mentally unwell at the time, which can lead to a Hospital Order.
Who can apply for a VRR?
A Victim Right of Review (VRR) gives the actual victim of the crime (or a close relative if the victim died as a result of the offence) the opportunity to challenge decisions by the police or CPS to not proceed with prosecution (which can happen at any stage). An example point of challenge could be a failure to follow up key evidential leads such as obtaining accounts from independent witnesses.
Is there a time limit?
A VRR request has a time limit of 3 months from the date a matter was closed. You may be able to request a review out of time but only if the reason for the delay was due to exceptional circumstances.
How is the VRR conducted?
Usually a senior colleague/individual to the person who closed the case will review the decision. For example, if a Police Constable closed the crime report, a Police Sergeant may then conduct the review. The CPS tend to have two stages to the review request, whereas the police tend to only have one. Beyond the VRR, an individual’s only recourse would be to bring a Judicial Review against the public body’s final decision (e.g. on the grounds there has been an error of law, or their decision is irrational).