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Charters and Standards

Victims and witnesses of crime have very limited rights in legislation and these rights are incorporated in a range of different laws. Non-statutory rights are provided by a number of charters. In 1985 both the United Nations and the Council of Europe adopted declarations referring to the rights of victims of crime. These established the importance of victims being treated with dignity and respect and given information, compensation and services, as well as the right to be heard at appropriate times in the case.

They were followed in the United Kingdom by charters and standards for victims and for witnesses. The current guidelines for victims in the UK are enshrined in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. The Lord Chancellor’s Department published a Courts Charter in 1992 followed by the Court Service’s leaflet Court’s Charter: Witnesses in the Crown Court in 1998. This ‘sets out the standard of service we aim to give you and how you can let us know when you are not happy.’ The Lord Chancellor’s Department also produced a Model Quality of Service Charter for all Magistrates’ Courts Committees in England and Wales in 1998 and each Magistrates’ Courts Committee then produced a local charter based on this. The Model includes four key standards relating to victims and witnesses which the magistrates’ courts must monitor and comply with.

In addition, the Trials Issues Group set up by the Lord Chancellor’s Department produced its Statement of National Standards of Witness Care in the Criminal Justice System in 1996 which ‘sets national parameters for standards of service to witnesses in criminal cases.’

In March 2001 the Council of the European Union issued the Framework Decision on the Standing of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, which lists types of information, protection, compensation and support that member states should provide for victims of crime.

The following document details the rights and standards available to victims and witnesses of crime, in relation to support, protection, compensation, the media and then following the judicial process in chronological order. Other than within the criminal justice system, there are no specific legal rights for victims and witnesses except in relation to compensation and the media.

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