Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme

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Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme

The Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme provides the victims of crime with a mechanism to challenge the decision of either the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to charge and/or prosecute a suspect, or to restart a prosecution that has been discontinued. 

There are two VRR schemes available to victims depending on what stage the investigation or case has reached; the Police scheme and the CPS scheme. There are strict time limits attached to both, and there are also important exemptions whereby the original decision cannot be challenged. However, VRR is an important and welcome safeguard for victims of crime, which can and regularly does result in decisions being reversed.

If the case qualifies under either scheme, a victim of a crime can request an impartial review of the decision in dispute. The reviewer must look at the case afresh.

In certain circumstances, other people can apply on behalf of a victim. This includes:

  • close relatives of someone who has died as a result of a crime
  • the parent or guardian of a victim who is under the age of 18
  • someone who is representing a victim who has a disability or who has ​been badly injured as the result of a crime which means they can’t represent themselves
  • a business

Whatever stage your case has reached, our team can offer sensitive assistance in drafting and submitting tailored representations under the VRR Scheme, in order to give you the best possible chance of having an original decision overturned. Where it is appropriate to do so, we can instruct specialist counsel to advise as part of the process.

We have outlined the key aspects of both schemes below:

Police VRR Scheme

The Police scheme gives victims the right to ask for a review of a police decision not to charge a suspect following an investigation. You must inform the police that you wish to review the decision within three months of receiving written notice.

VRR normally only applies to cases where a suspect has been identified and interviewed under caution (although there can be exceptions to this).

VRR doesn’t apply to cases where:

  • a suspect hasn’t been identified
  • only some of the charges are brought against some of the suspects
  • a positive decision has been made about someone else in connection with the incident. This could include a range of outcomes. For example, community resolutions or a caution, through to charge and court appearance
  • the suspect is charged with a different crime from the one that was recorded and complained about by the victim. For example, the suspect is charged with common assault but an offence of actual bodily harm was recorded
  • an out of court disposal has been given, for example, caution, a conditional caution or community resolution
  • the victim withdraws their complaint, or refuses to cooperate with the investigation, so police decide not to charge or to refer the case to the CPS

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Scheme

The CPS scheme was established in 2013 and enables victims to seek a review of certain CPS decisions not to charge a suspect or to stop a prosecution.

It is important to note that the “right” referred to in the context of the VRR scheme is the right to request a review of a final decision. It is not a guarantee that the original decision will be overturned.

A request for a review should ordinarily be made within 10 working days of the date of the decision letter (although exceptions apply).

There are a number of scenarios where the CPS may overturn a first instance decision not to prosecute, or when it will restart a prosecution that was discontinued. These cases include:

  • cases where a further review of the original decision shows that it was wrong and, in order to maintain confidence in the criminal justice system, a prosecution should be brought despite the earlier decision;
  • cases which are stopped so that further anticipated evidence, which is likely to become available in the fairly near future, can be collected and prepared. In these cases, the prosecutor will tell the defendant that the prosecution may well start again;
  • cases which are not prosecuted or are stopped because of a lack of evidence but where more significant evidence is discovered later; and
  • cases involving a death in which a review following the findings of an inquest concludes that a prosecution should be brought, notwithstanding any earlier decision not to prosecute.

Following a review under the scheme, qualifying decisions not to charge, to discontinue, and to withdraw can be instituted or reinstituted, subject to any statutory time limits.

There are two possible review outcomes:  

A New Decision: when the earlier decision is overturned

Uphold Previous Decision – the original decision not to prosecute is upheld, and the victim notified and provided with an explanation.

How JMW Can Help

Our team has specialist experience of supporting victims through the VRR process and track record of success. 

Our assistance will include:

  • guiding you through the process
  • taking your detailed instructions on the crime and the investigation of it by the authorities
  • liaising with the appropriate officer or lawyer to understand the first instance decision
  • instructing expert counsel to review the evidence and advise in conference (if appropriate)
  • drafting and submitting the letter of representations under the VRR scheme and preparing a supporting bundle of evidence
  • following up to ensure the review is conducted within the timeframe and in accordance with national guidelines

Seeking legal advice quickly following an adverse decision is absolutely essential to ensure you have the best possible chance of overturning a CPS decision.

Talk to us

To speak to a solicitor about your case, call us on 0345 872 6666, or fill in our online enquiry form to arrange a call back.