What is a victim personal statement?
A victim personal statement (VPS) allows you to say, in your own words, how a crime has affected or continues to affect you. It is considered when a case goes to court and a person pleads guilty or is found guilty. It will tell the judge about any harm the crime has caused you, before a sentence is passed. The VPS is different from an Expert Victim Impact Report which the court may commission from, for example, a medical expert.
What offences can it be used for?
It can be used for any offence where there has been a conviction at court. The VPS must relate to a particular offence committed by a particular individual. It should not comment on alleged offences or offences committed by others.
Who can make a VPS?
You, if you are a direct victim of a crime. Where a victim is deceased, or they are unable to make a statement due to their physical or mental health, someone else can write it such as a close family member or representative (where the Victim and Witness Care Unit are made aware of this). A bereaved family member can make a statement on behalf of other family members. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian can make a VPS instead of, or in addition to, you.
Do I have a right to make a VPS?
You have the right to be given the opportunity to make a written VPS. This is provided for in legislation. Your case officer in the Victim and Witness Care Unit will inform you, through this leaflet, about being given the opportunity to make a VPS.
Do I have to make a VPS?
No, not if you do not want to – it is entirely your choice. You may find it helpful to talk it over with someone before making a decision. If you decide not to make a VPS it will not damage the case in any way. No one will assume that you are unaffected by the crime.
When can I make a VPS?
The VPS must be made before any sentence is passed. If a VPS is not submitted in sufficient time before the sentencing date, generally it will not be possible to delay the case for this purpose.
How do I make a VPS?
You must contact Victim Support NI, NSPCC Young Witness Service (if the victim is a young person) or your PSNI Family Liaison Officer (for a family member bereaved through murder, manslaughter or a road death) in order to make the statement. Ideally you should contact them once you know the trial, or contest, date or if the defendant pleaded guilty. They will advise you about what your statement can/cannot contain and can help you prepare the VPS.
The VPS should be recorded by, or be made through, Victim Support NI, NSPCC Young Witness Service or the PSNI Family Liaison Officer (with their advice). You should prepare a draft statement ahead of meeting them. You must sign and give the statement to them once finalised.
What information should the VPS include?
The VPS should set out the impact on you as the victim or, if the victim is deceased, the impact on the family member completing the statement. It may also reflect on how it affects the victim’s close family.
The types of impacts you may include are:
- physical injury
- emotional impact of the crime, if it has affected your feelings or emotional wellbeing
- social impact, including how you interact with people
- financial impact, including any money or property lost as a result of the crime or inability to work.
The focus must be on how you have been affected as a result of the crime (or the person on whose behalf the VPS is being made), not on what actually happened. You should not describe the detail of the crime itself, the court will hear about this separately. You should not give your views on the defendant, any other or alleged offences, or any punishment that you think should be imposed – that is for the judge alone to decide.
Before the VPS is given to the judge, the Public Prosecution Service will remove any information that should not be in the statement (known as redaction). You may be asked to provide medical evidence to support your statement.
Who will see the VPS in court?
If the case goes to court, the VPS will be seen by the prosecutor, the defendant, their legal representative and the judge, ahead of any sentencing. After the VPS is submitted it forms part of the case papers.
When will the judge consider the VPS?
The judge will consider the VPS following a guilty plea or guilty verdict. It will inform the judge about how the crime has affected, or continues to affect, you before he or she passes any sentence.
Will I be questioned in court about the VPS?
The judge or the defence could decide to ask you questions in court about the content of your statement. You therefore need to be able to substantiate its content.
Can I read the VPS to the court?
You are not entitled to read your VPS aloud in court. The judge may refer to, or make public, as part of their sentencing comments, part(s) of the VPS. This means it could be read out in court and reported in the media. Your VPS should state if you object to part(s) of it being referred to in court or in the judgment.
How is the sentence determined?
The judge alone decides the sentence in each case, taking account of a wide range of issues including the maximum sentence available in law, any aggravating or mitigating factors in a case, any case law and any other guidance that is available such as sentencing guidance. The judge will be required to consider a VPS that is provided ahead of sentencing.
Who else will see the VPS?
Where you engage with other criminal justice service providers (the NI Prison Service, the Probation Board or the Youth Justice Agency) they may find it helpful to see your VPS. This could help them provide services to you. In such cases you should tell them you want them to see your VPS. They will take your written consent and get your VPS.
Further information and contact details
More detailed information can be found on the: NIDirect website or by contacting Victim Support NI, NSPCC Young Witness Service or your PSNI Family Liaison Officer (for a bereaved family member) who can provide advice and a copy of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If the statement relates to a child, contact:NSPCC Young Witness Service
30 Castle Way