Bereavement due to traumatic death

The Victim Personal Statement

A legal inquiry follows a death whenever the cause is unknown, violent or ‘unnatural’ (see ‘The coroner’s inquest’). Once the investigation is complete, a decision will be made, usually by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), whether or not to charge and prosecute a defendant. The CPS prosecutes only if it has enough evidence to provide a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’ on each charge.
The CPS prosecutes on behalf of the public, not the family of the deceased, but when a serious crime has occurred, close relatives and others are invited to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS), sometimes referred to as a Victim Impact Statement. This gives close relatives and partners an opportunity to tell the police and the court how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially. 

Some people write their own VPS. Others dictate it to a police liaison officer. The VPS has to be signed by the person who made it. All close relatives of the deceased should be invited to make a VPS. We talked to some who had made them.

Julie was devastated when her sister was murdered. Her life changed in many ways because she offered to care for her sister’s young son. She mentioned this in her VPS.
Martin was upset because he mistakenly thought that only one VPS could be given to the judge, and that the VPS from his wife’s sister had been used instead of his own.

The VPS should not be confused with a witness statement- people are not asked to make a witness statement unless they are a witness in the trial. Once the VPS has been made it becomes part of the case papers and can be seen by the police, the prosecutor, the defence team and the magistrates or judge. The judge will see it after conviction but before sentencing. The jury would not normally read it.
It is possible that the defendants will also see the VPS via the defence team. Relatives of the victim are not usually allowed to see the case papers because they may be a witness or could speak to witnesses about the Statements and other paper work. Some people felt that this imbalance was unfair.
Depending on the circumstances the CPS prosecutor may read the VPS out in court. Alternatively the judge may read the VPS in private. People can tell the CPS prosecutor to tell the judge which they would prefer, but the final decision is left to the judge. People are not allowed to read out their VPS in court themselves.
Some people had wanted their VPS read out in court and were very upset when it wasn’t. Sarah was angry because the date of the court case was changed and she was misinformed about what would happen so she did not attend. As a result her VPS was not used (see Sarah’s account in ‘The court case’). However, she was allowed to make an impact statement for the subsequent inquest instead.
The judge can consider the impact on the victim when he or she decides on the sentence, but the VPS is not likely to make a significant difference to the sentence given. Indeed, some people we talked to felt that the VPS had been a waste of time. However, others, including Linda (see below), thought it might have affected the length of sentence given to the offender.
Dolores hoped that her Victim Personal Statement would have some impact on the man who killed her son, Tom, but she doesn't think that the murderer understood any of it.

Last reviewed May 2019.

Last updated October 2011.


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