When you phone Derbyshire police your call will be answered by a specially trained call taker who will ask you questions to understand what help you need. This information is put into a police computer and sent to a dispatcher who will choose the most suitable officer or team to respond.
This could be an immediate response or an appointment for an officer to visit. Sometimes, office based investigators may gather information from you over the phone and a personal visit might not be necessary. You’ll be given a crime reference number to use for insurance or criminal injuries compensation claims.
Under the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, police must tell you if there won’t be an investigation, within five days of you reporting the crime. If officers are needed immediately to deal with your incident, they’ll get a message on their police radio and will be sent to attend.
The officers will identify themselves and take some details from you about the incident. They’ll ask you how you want the matter dealt with. For example, you may prefer the offender to be warned by the police rather than dealt with by the court.
It’s important that this meets your needs but also reflects the seriousness of the offence.
Based on that decision, police may take a witness statement from you – this is a written explanation of what happened and what you remember, which you’ll be asked to sign. On some occasions the officer may make a brief entry in a pocket notebook which you may be asked to sign.
As a victim, you may also be asked to make a Victim Personal Statement although these can be made at any time during the investigation. This explains how the incident has made you feel, the impact it’s had on your life and the support you think you might need. If anyone’s convicted of a crime resulting from your complaint, the statement is presented to the court before the offender is sentenced and is taken into consideration.
Contact and media appeals
Officers will also ask you how often and how you would like to be kept up to date with their enquiries. Under the Victims' Code, police must keep you up to date with the progress of the case on a monthly basis.
Don’t be surprised if details about the incident appear in the media. An outline might be given by the police to appeal for information or to find more people who may have seen what happened. This could help identify the offender or strengthen a case which goes to court. However, rest assured - officers would not give out any sensitive information which could cause you or your family embarrassment.
During the investigation, Derbyshire police will carry out a range of enquiries to gather evidence. Depending on what type of incident it is, this might include an examination by scenes of crimes officers or vehicle examiners.
Detectives or neighbourhood policing teams might carry out door-to-door enquiries, visiting local homes and businesses to ask if anyone might have seen or heard anything suspicious. If the incident has occurred in an area covered by closed circuit television cameras, footage could be examined.
From these enquiries, officers may obtain evidence which pinpoints a suspect.
Around this time, you may be asked to see if you can identify the suspect from a computerised identification parade. This is nothing like old ID parades you may have seen in films or on television.
You’ll be asked to come to a police station and look at some images on screen, to see if you recognise anyone as the person you saw carrying out the crime or acting suspiciously.
If you’ve got transport difficulties, an officer could take you to one of the police stations where the identification takes place. And don’t worry – you’ll not be in the same room as the suspect.
If there’s enough evidence linking the suspect to the crime, they can be arrested and taken into police custody – that means they would be questioned by officers in a police station. Officers may also use a search warrant to look inside a property, to see if the suspect’s got any stolen or illegal goods, or any other item connected with the crime such as clothing or a weapon.
When a person is arrested, they’re told their legal rights and taken to a police custody area where they’re booked in. This means their personal details are recorded, potentially dangerous items taken from them. Then they’re put into a cell while waiting to be questioned.
While they’re in custody, officers can lawfully take their fingerprints, shoe impressions and DNA which are run through police computer systems to see if they link the person to any unsolved crimes.
PACE, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, sets out strict rules about how long and under what conditions a prisoner can be kept in custody, to maintain their welfare. They’re entitled to see a solicitor, eat and rest.
While the suspect’s in custody, they’ll be interviewed and questioned about the incident, and if there’s sufficient evidence, they may be charged with an offence.
Depending on the nature of the crime, the amount of evidence available and whether the suspect admits their involvement, there are alternatives to a person being charged, such as a caution or reprimand. It is also possible to offer young offenders who have offended for the first time intervention work to prevent further re-offending. This is known as community resolution.
The evidence collected by the police is passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS is the main prosecuting authority for England and Wales. In most instances, the CPS will decide how a case should be dealt with, if criminal proceedings should be brought and identify the most appropriate charges.
After a person’s been charged, they may be kept in custody by the police until the first court hearing or released on bail. This means being temporarily freed from custody with or without conditions.
Conditions can be attached to bail to protect victims and witnesses and prevent any more offences being committed or to ensure that the suspect turns up at court. A suspect may be required, for example, to stay away from a particular place, have no contact with named individuals, reside at a particular address or report regularly to a police station. Failure to meet bail conditions could result in the suspect being rearrested, kept in custody and brought again before the court. At court, the suspect who’s now called the defendant, may ask to be released from custody or vary any bail conditions.
After reporting a crime, you’ll be asked if you need help from the charity, Victim Support. This is an independent organisation which offers a free service to anyone affected by crime. You can talk to local caseworkers in confidence – on the phone, at a drop-in centre or at your home.
They can offer you emotional support, provide information about criminal injuries compensation, help you with paperwork such as insurance claims and put you in touch with specialist services.
They can also assist with practical help including organising emergency repairs and crime reduction measures such as installing security lighting or locks.
Victim Support, which can be contacted on 0845 30 30 900, will support you at any stage, whether or not an offender has been charged or there is court involvement.
The Witness Service forms part of Victim Support and will look after your needs if you’re required to attend court. You can arrange a ‘pre court visit’ through Witness Care and a volunteer will show you around a court room and explain who may be present and where they will sit. They’ll answer your questions regarding the court process but cannot discuss evidence with you.
The 'Going to Court' section will help you understand what going to court means: where you may have to go, what help there will be for you and what you can expect when you arrive at court.