Ensuring that victims have the confidence to report crime and that all witnesses have the confidence to appear as a witness in court and give their best evidence is recognised as a sign of a well functioning criminal justice system. We believe that improving the victim and witness experience is a key Government priority for the criminal justice system and this is key feature in our strategic vision.
The definitions we use are:
- a victim is a person, organisation, or government who has suffered direct financial loss from serious and complex fraud or corruption
- a witness is a person who gives evidence in respect of an SFO case by providing a witness statement. Please note that professional and expert witnesses are not included in our strategy.
Our vision puts victims at the heart of what we do. We will achieve this by ensuring that our people are able to identify and understand the needs of victims and witnesses, and are more responsive to their reasonable requirements, including any additional considerations for those victims who volunteer to become witnesses in one of our cases.
Our strategy seeks to ensure that witnesses in SFO cases are in a position to provide their best evidence and to ensure that more victims are willing to come forward. We will achieve this by enhancing and providing continuity of support, information for witnesses and considering them throughout the period that they are involved in our case.
As both an investigatory and prosecuting authority, the SFO relies on the information and evidence of victims and witnesses. Without their co-operation, prosecutions may not be able to take place and consequently justice may not be done.
We want to improve the experience of victims and witnesses. We are committed to improving our processes so that we:
- (as allowed by law) place the victim first when considering whether to take on a case, how to investigate it and how to prosecute it
- ensure that any victim identified by us during an investigation receives appropriate and continuous consideration and support throughout the life of the case
- take the interests of the victims into account from the time we register a case until the trial process ends
- effectively pursue a positive outcome.
In all stages of our work, we will achieve this strategic vision and aims by:
- handling all enquiries and reports by victims and witnesses sympathetically before we accept a case for investigation (in other words, during the initial stage or 'Referral Evaluation' process)
- selecting offences that reflect the extent of the criminal conduct
- creating a Victim Strategy at the start of a case and developing the strategy as appropriate through the life of the case. This will include a process for maintaining appropriate contact and communication with victims and witnesses
- taking reasonable steps to identify the victims in the case
- obtaining information from victims in order to understand what happened and the impact it had on them
- carrying out assessments that enable us to apply for appropriate 'special measures' that support victims and witnesses and help them give their best evidence
- keeping victims and witnesses updated during the life of the case, and giving them relevant information to manage their reasonable expectations and alleviate possible concerns
- supporting victims and witnesses attending the trial and giving evidence at court
- using feedback from victims and witnesses to improve our processes and approach.
How we will deliver our commitments
We are taking a number of measures to deliver our commitments. You can read more about these in:
Victims, witnesses and the SFO all stand to benefit from this approach.
- witnesses - will be able to deliver their best evidence
at the SFO:
- witnesses and victims - will see how we value
the contribution they make to our cases and the support we give
- we will be trusted more to deliver justice
- we will be trusted to safeguard society and maintain confidence in the financial markets and institutions by reducing the harm arising from criminal conduct in relation to serious and complex fraud and corruption.
Responsibilities and accountabilities
Everyone working at the SFO shares responsibility for supporting victims and witnesses. People at different levels in the organisation have specific responsibilities and accountabilities.