When a crime is reported, the police have to decide if they can investigate the case. Sometimes investigations can take a long time and sometimes cases are never solved. The police might not be able to catch the offender, or there might not be enough evidence to charge someone with the crime.
You can find out what your rights are after a crime by clicking here (on the gov.uk website)
When is a caution or penalty notice used?
In some circumstances, the police can decide to deal with a crime by giving:
- a caution or warning
- a police fine, called a penalty notice
Find out more about police warnings and penalty notices (on gov.uk website)
What happens when someone is charged with a crime?
In Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria, Crown Prosecution Service North East prosecute criminal cases investigated by the police. They decide when someone should be charged with a serious crime and taken to court. They may not prosecute if it's unlikely that someone would be convicted, or if it's a minor crime and a first offence.
You can find more information here on the Crown Prosecution Service North East website.
What happens in court?
The court will hold a hearing where magistrates or a jury decide if someone is guilty of the crime. Most crimes are dealt with in a magistrates' court. The most serious crimes (like murder or robbery) are passed on to a higher court, called the Crown Court.
We have worked with intermediaries for Justice to produce a suite of new and innovative resource booklets to provide clear and easy to follow advice to victims and witnesses to help them to best prepare for attending court.
The suite of documents includes a supportive guide to help victims produce a ‘Victim Personal Statement’. It has informative info graphics to help victims communicate the impact that the event has had upon them. The documents are tailored to provide information about court processes with photographs of the individual courts to enable the victim or witness to familiarise themselves with the setting before they attend. These documents are available from the Intermediaries for Justice website.
You can Find out more about criminal cases (from open.justice.gov.uk website)
How are offenders sentenced?
Magistrates (in a magistrates' court) or a judge (in the Crown Court) decide on how offenders are sentenced.
The magistrates or judge must consider the need to:
- Punish the offender
- Protect the public
- Change the offender's behaviour
- Get the offender to make up for their crime
- Cut crime in the future
Find out more about how sentencing works (from open.justice.gov.uk website)
What types of court sentence are there?
When a court finds someone guilty of a crime, the most common sentences are:
- A court fine
- A community sentence - (e.g. a curfew, unpaid work or going on a drug treatment programme)
- A prison sentence
- A suspended prison sentence
In a suspended prison sentence, the offender serves their sentence in the community, but if they commit another crime they will usually be sent to prison.
Find out about sentences (from open.justice.gov.uk website)