A message to Victims and Witnesses
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on so many aspects of our daily lives and across many support services, including the criminal justice system. As a victim of crime or a witness we want you to be reassured that your case is important and you are still very much a priority.
We understand that you may be experiencing increased uncertainty as you await completion of your case through your local criminal justice system and therefore wanted you to be aware of the actions that are being taken to support you and to progress your case.
Through the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Criminal Justice Board, partners from across the local criminal justice system, including the police, crown prosecution service, courts, prison, probation, youth offending and defence work together. We have all been focussed on supporting the courts to get back up and running, addressing the delays as a result of the pandemic and improve the progression of cases through the system. We are committed to progressing your case as soon as possible and to give you support during this exceptional time.
How can I get support?
All criminal justice partners are committed to putting victims and witnesses first, ensuring that every victim and witness of crime receives a coordinated, consistent and end to end service. Within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, this service is provided by the Victim and Witness Care Unit.
The Victim and Witness Care Unit provide ongoing support, updates and information to all victims and witnesses going through the court system. A Victim and Witness Liaison Officer will have been in touch with you to keep you updated about your case and any delays there may be. They will continue to do this as and when further information is available and will answer any questions you may have about your hearing, courts and the criminal justice process.
We acknowledge that any delay to your case may feel unsettling and we would encourage you to continue to access specialist support. There are a range of support services for victims and witnesses which can be provided locally, please discuss these with your dedicated Victim and Witness Liaison Officer who can explain your options and arrange this for you.
Visit Hampshire Constabulary’s Victim and Witness support page for contact details of your local Victim and Witness Care Unit and more information on the support available.
Victim Care Service
The Victim Care Service provides support for victims of crime to cope with, and recover from, the harmful effects of the crime they have experienced. The Service is open to all victims no matter what the type of crime, regardless of whether the crime has been reported to the police or not, and no matter how recently or how long ago the crime took place.
The Victim Care Service is open from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and can be contacted in a number of ways:
- Freephone number: 0808 178 1641
- Email address: email@example.com
- Facebook: @VCSHampshireIOW
- Twitter: @VCS_HantsIOW
- There is also a Live Chat service 24/7, which can be accesses through the Victim Support’s website: https://bit.ly/3aMYEBR.
- Victim Support’s Supportline number (24/7): 0808 168 9111
Are courts up and running?
We are pleased to confirm that Winchester, Southampton, Portsmouth and Newport Crown Courts are open and all are running jury trial courts.
While all of the Crown and Magistrates’ Courts in Hampshire are now up and running and progressing trials, there are significant delays, the numbers of cases going through the courts is reduced to allow for social distancing. We have therefore been exploring other ways to increase the number of cases being heard in court. This has so far included:
- Extended court opening hours, allowing two court sessions a day, being piloted first in Portsmouth
- Utilising additional courts by opening on Saturdays
- Plexiglass screens are being fitted in courts to separate members of the jury to enable more jury trials to take place, and hearings that have more than one defendant
- Recruitment of additional legal advisors across the region to support court resources
- Nightingale courts have been set up in other areas and in Winchester the Guild Hall is being used for civil and family hearings which will allow 2 additional Crown Courts to be stood up in Winchester Crown Court
Are courts COVID safe?
The priority for the court service is the safety of all those that attend. Comprehensive risk assessments have been undertaken in all court centres and these are reviewed every week.
A number of new measures have been put in place in courts, all endorsed by Public Health England, to make them COVID safe including:
- Alterations have been made in court rooms to allow for social distancing
- Plexi glass screens installed in court rooms and jury deliberation rooms
- Deliberation rooms have been set up to allow social distancing
- Limiting numbers on site
- The wearing of face coverings
- Touchpoint cleaning
- Hand sanitising stations
- Floor markings and one way systems
- Those attending court being asked to bring their own water bottles and holy books to take the oath
When will my case be heard?
We are working hard to tackle the delays and we are looking to resolve the most serious cases first. We are aware of the impact of the delays on you and the uncertainty you face not knowing when your trial will be but at the current time it is not possible to give an exact date for all cases yet.
The long term plan is that by the end of December there will be more Crown Courts operating across the region than pre-COVID levels which will help to increase the number of cases going through the court.
Where do I go for more information?
We will keep you updated as more information becomes available and developments are made to enable your case to be heard. Please visit the Local Criminal Justice Board page, where we will also add updates on the progress.
We appreciate this is a difficult time but please be reassured you are a priority and are at the heart of the criminal justice system. Partners are working together across the criminal justice system to reduce the delays and improve the timeliness of all cases being heard.
Thank you for your understanding.