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The police investigation

After a crime has been reported, the police will decide whether to start an investigation. 

You might be feeling anxious or intimidated. You’re not alone, and the police are here to support you. They’ll decide if you need any special help throughout the investigation, tailored to your needs.  

Keeping up to date

Investigations can take a long time, but the police will keep you informed at important points. 

You can agree with the investigating officer how often you’d like to hear from them. You can also contact them whenever you want an update by calling 101 and giving your crime reference number. 

You’ll always be contacted at the end of the investigation. 

Learning the outcome of an investigation

The police will let you know within 5 working days of the suspect being:  

  • arrested 
  • charged 
  • released without charge 
  • released under investigation (where there are no bail conditions) 
  • released on bail 
  • given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice 

You’ll get this information within 1 working day if you’re the victim of a serious crime, you’ve been repeatedly targeted, or you’re intimidated or vulnerable. 

Your case won’t go to court if a suspect is released without charge or given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice.  

Deciding if a case should go to court

When the police finish their investigation, they might pass the information to the Crown Prosecution Service, which presents criminal cases in court. The police or the Crown Prosecution Service will decide whether there is enough evidence and whether it’s in the public interest to take the case to court. 

If they later decide to stop or change your case, they’ll let you know the reasons why within 5 working days. 

If you’re a victim and you’re unhappy with a decision made by the Crown Prosecution Service, you can ask them to review it through the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme. If it was the police who decided not to prosecute a suspect, you can ask the relevant police force to review their decision. 

Your rights during a police investigation

You have the right to: 

  • be kept updated by the police on the investigation 
  • be told when a suspect has been arrested and charged 
  • be told whether or not the suspect will be taken to court  
  • ask for a review if you’re the victim of a crime and the Crown Prosecution Service or the police decide not to prosecute a suspect 
  • apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, depending on the injury 

You can read more about your rights as a victim or witness of crime in the Victims’ Code and the Witness Charter.  

What you should do during a police investigation

  1. Contact the investigating officer if you want an update on the crime. 
  2. Tell the police if you think you need any kind of extra help during an investigation. 
  3. Ask the police to let you know if they’re speaking to newspapers or TV stations about the crime (it’s against the law to publish information about you if you’re under 18 or the victim of a sexual crime). 

What happens next

If the defendant pleads guilty at their court hearing, the case won’t go to trial. This means you won’t need to go to court. 

If the defendant pleads not guilty and you’re a victim or witness of the crime, it’s likely you’ll need to give evidence at court. This can be daunting, but you’ll be given lots of support and reassurance. You can also ask for extra help in court (known as ‘special measures’) so you can give your best evidence. Find out more about going to court.



When the suspect is free until they have to return to the police station or court. 


When a suspect is officially accused of committing a crime. 

Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service presents criminal cases at court after they have been investigated by the police. 


The person charged with a criminal offence. 


Information that can show what happened in a case. 

Investigating officer

The police officer in charge of your case who can keep you up to date with the investigation. You can call them on 101 and give your crime reference number to be put through to the right person. 


When the police take witness statements and gather evidence to try and establish the facts of a crime and charge a suspect.  

Special measures

The extra support a court can provide to help vulnerable or intimidated witnesses give their best evidence. These measures could include putting screens around the witness box. 

Victims’ Code

The Victims’ Code explains the rights that everyone can expect to receive as a victim of crime. Different versions are available, including leaflets, an easy-read booklet, and the full code in English and Welsh. 

Victims’ Right to Review Scheme

The Victims’ Right to Review Scheme gives victims the right to request a review of a Crown Prosecution Service decision not to prosecute or to stop criminal proceedings.

Witness Charter

A government document that sets out how witnesses can expect to be treated by the police if they have to give evidence in court. Different versions are available, including an easy-to-read brochure and the full charter in English and Welsh. 

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