Victims & Witnesses of Crime

Victims & Witnesses of Crime


    

Whether you are the unfortunate victim of a crime or the witness to an offence being committed, it can be a traumatic personal experience.

The information provided here is an overview of the investigation of crime and the prosecution of offenders. It will help you better understand the vital roles which the Police, the Courts, the victims and the witnesses all play in bringing the offenders to justice.

TOPICS:

   
• Whose Responsibility? • Completion of Enquiries
• The Initial Investigation • If You Witness a Crime
• The Interview Stage • Normal Court Procedure
• Examination of the Crime Scene • Conclusion
• Exhibits • Important Services & Telephone Numbers
 



Whose Responsibility?

Once a crime has been reported or discovered, it is the responsibility of the Police Service to conduct a thorough investigation of that crime and to bring the offender(s) before the Courts. The Police rely heavily on the co-operation which they receive from both the victims and the witnesses to assist them in gathering the necessary evidence to charge the criminal(s). It is therefore vitally important if you become the victim or a potential witness to a crime, that you contact the Police at your earliest convenience.

Depending upon the nature of the crime you may be reluctant to come forward, and this is understandable. In particular when dealing with offences of a personal nature, officers will try to be sensitive and sympathetic to your situation. It should be noted that offences of a sexual nature involving women and young girls are dealt with by women officers, and if an examination is required, a woman doctor can be requested. Likewise offences involving children are handled by specially trained Police officers.


The Initial Investigation

After a crime has been reported the investigation begins almost immediately. A typical investigation normally involves:
(1)
Gathering information and identifying people.
(2)
Interviewing victims and witnesses.
(3)
Examining the crime scene and/or scenes connected with the crime.

The Interview Stage

Police officers will obviously need to ask you questions about the crime or accident - lots of questions perhaps. Some questions may be difficult or awkward to answer and others may seem trivial or irrelevant. Your answers however could provide vital information in helping the Police to solve the case or detect a pattern in other similar crimes. At anytime during an investigation if you feel that something is important and has perhaps been overlooked, do not hesitate to tell one of the investigating Police Officers.

Interviews can be conducted either at the scene of the crime or at a Police Station, whichever is the most appropriate under the circumstances. The victims of sexual or child abuse are generally interviewed at venues more sympathetic to their needs.

Examination of the Crime Scene

It is extremely important that the place where an alleged crime took place be preserved and that neither you nor anybody else touches anything.

Crime Scenes need to be preserved for the following reasons:

(a)
To prevent people destroying valuable evidence at the scene.
(b)
To prevent people unwittingly contaminating evidence and rendering it useless or inadmissible.
(c)

To allow the attending Police Scenes of Crime Officer to find the maximum amount of evidence at the scene.

A Police Scenes of a Crime Officer is usually required to attend and examine the scene of any major crime and/or serious road traffic accident. According to Locards theory, when two surfaces meet, a transfer occurs and the examining officer may well search for many different pieces of forensic evidence at the same crime scene - for example fingerprints, footprints, shoe marks, blood, fibers from clothing and articles left behind by the offender. At the scene anything of any possible evidential value will be examined and collected. Some items can be examined right there, whilst others may need to be seized and taken into police possession for further examination.

Exhibits

Items seized at the scene of a crime may be needed later for production in an actual court trial. This might mean that property belonging to you or other people remains in Police custody for a considerable length of time. Every effort will be made to have it returned to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact one of the investigating Police officers.

Completion of Enquiries

When Police officers have completed all aspects of their investigation, they will compile a file which is reviewed by a member of the Attorney General's Chamber to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution.

If You Witness A Crime

This may be your first involvement in a court case and you may be nervous because you are uncertain about what to expect. One of the officers in your case will explain the court procedure to you and keep in touch.
He or she will tell you:
(1)
Whether or not your are required to give evidence, and if so, where and when
(2)
Of any new developments in the case.
(3)
The result of your case.
In turn you should keep the officer notified of all occasions when you will be unavailable to attend court (for example, a hospital operation or overseas vacation).

Normal Court Procedure

As the victim or witness of a crime, you may be required to go to court and give evidence from the witness box abut what you saw and heard.
Step 1 - Statement
Whilst being interviewed by a Police officer, a written record (statement) is made of what you said about the crime.
Step 2 - The Suspect
Depending on the seriousness of the charge(s), the suspect may be summoned to appear in court or it may be necessary to arrest him. When the suspect makes his first appearance in court (Plea Court), the charge(s) will be read out to him by a Magistrate. At that time the accused would normally be expected to enter a plea of "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" to those charges. It is NOT necessary for witnesses to attend Plea Court.
Step 3 - "Guilty" Plea
If the suspect pleads "Guilty" to the charge(s), you will NOT be called to give evidence in this case. At the hearing the Prosecutor will read out a summary of the evidence, the accused will have an opportunity to speak on his own behalf, and normally he (the accused) would expect to be sentenced there and then.
Step 4 - "Not Guilty" Plea
If the suspects pleads "Not Guilty" you will be called to attend court at a later date to give your evidence. The Police Officer in charge o the case will inform you of the trial date (when and where) and the procedure at the trial.
Step 5 - Your Court Appearance
You should plan to arrive at the court at least fifteen (15) minutes before the trial is due to start. See the officer in charge of the case and he or she will give you instructions on where to go and what to do.
If you are due to give evidence in a court case, you must remain outside the actual trial courtroom until your name is called.
When summoned to do so, enter the courtroom and step directly into the witness box and wait for the Magistrate or Judge to instruct you to take the oath. After taking the oath you will then be asked questions about what you saw and heard.
The Lower Courts or Magistrates Courts are presided over by Magistrates. When speaking to a Magistrate, his or her correct form of address is Your Worship. The Higher Courts or Supreme Courts are presided over by Judges who should be addressed as M'Lord or M'Lady, depending upon whether it is a man or woman.
Once you have given your evidence i the witness box, you will no longer be required and you may either leave the courtroom or take a seat and listen to the rest of the case.
Court Dates

Court dates are set by Magistrates and Judges, not Police officers. For a variety of reasons court dates may be changed frequently, for example, another witness might be unavailable or the defense lawyer may not be ready to proceed. Because of these changes it is sometimes necessary to attend court on more than one occasion.

Whilst such changes may be inconvenient, it is important that you attend court on the dates and times notified by the officer in charge of your case. Your failure to attend court as a witness could result in the case being dismissed by a Magistrate or a judge.


Conclusion

It is hoped that this overview of the investigation of crime and the prosecution of offenders has removed some of the mystic surrounding the roles of the Police, and in particular, the Courts. Furthermore that it has enabled you to better understand the vital roles which the victims and witnesses play in bringing offenders to justice.

List of Services Available to Assist Victims & Witnesses of Crime & Serious Road Traffic Collisions

Emergency Telephone Numbers:  
Police (Emergency)
911
Fire Emergency)
911
Ambulance (Emergency)
911
Addiction Services
67 Victoria Street, Hamilton, HM 12
292-8719
Coalition for the Protection of Children 4 Wesley Street, Hamilton, HM 11
295-1150
Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (CADA) 16 Berry Hill Road, Paget, DV 04
295-5982
Criminal Injuries (Compensation Board) 133 Front Street, Hamilton, HM 12
292-1350
Employee Assistance Programme of Bermuda 133 Front Street, Hamilton, HM 12
292-9000
Family Services Old Hospital Building 7 Point Finger Road, Paget, DV 04
236-0224
N.A.D.A. Melbourne House Parliament Street, Hamilton, HM 11
295-3381
Physical Abuse Centre 63 Court Street, Hamilton, HM 12
(Bus) 292-4366
(Hotline) 297-8278
P.R.I.D.E. Mechanic's Building Church Street, Hamilton, HM 11
295-3381
Probation Services Teucer House, 3 Cedar Avenue, Pembroke, HM 09
295-5005
S.T.A.R. 131 South Road, Smith's, HS 01

292-5941

Teen Services Teucer House, 3 Cedar Avenue, Pembroke, HM 09
292-4598
Women's Resource Centre 58 Reid Street, Hamilton, HM 12
(Bus) 295-3882
(Hotline) 295-7273
Bermuda Police Service 10 Headquarters Hill, Prospect, Devonshire, DV 02
295-0011

Juvenile & Domestic Crime Unit

299-4477
Schools Liaison (R.E.A.C.H.)
299-4516
Crime & Drug Prevention Unit
299-4286