A CPS guide for victims of rape and sexual abuse – How we work with the police as they build their case

In cases of rape or serious sexual assault we offer the police ‘early advice’. This means that we work with them as early as possible to advise them on what kind of evidence to look for to help them build the case. 

Working together helps us to build strong cases as quickly and effectively as possible.

The kind of evidence that the police will look for will depend on the circumstances of your case. It’s their job to look for anything that supports what you’ve told them but also anything which undermines it or supports the suspect’s account.

It’s important for the police to build a full picture of what happened including any evidence that might be put forward by the defence if the case goes to trial.

The evidence that the police will gather often includes things like:

  • A video recording of your interview or any written statement you’ve given to the police
  • Your Victim Personal Statement – if you’ve provided one
  • Statements from any other witnesses or video recordings of interviews with them
  • Any account the suspect provided during their police interview
  • CCTV evidence of the incident or of events surrounding the incident
  • Medical evidence – this is evidence from a doctor or other medical professional
  • Digital evidence gathered from smartphones, tablets or computer downloads.

In some cases, the police will ask to look at your digital devices, such as your mobile phone, laptop, or tablet, as part of their investigation. For example, there may be messages or photos on your device that can help to prove dates, times or other important parts of the case. This material can help us build the strongest case possible.

Before asking for your device, the police will always consider whether there is another way to gather the evidence, for example by looking at the suspect’s device. In many cases, the police will discuss this with us and we will work together to make sure that we’re only asking to look at your devices where it’s legally necessary.

If it is necessary to gather evidence from your device, the police will ask you to sign a form which will explain why they need your device, what they will look for (and what they won’t) on your device and the importance of this evidence to the investigation. They will also explain the potential impact upon a prosecution if you don’t provide them with your device.

The police will only look at information that is relevant to the case. Every case is different, and the decision about what is relevant will depend on the unique facts in your case.

Where possible the police will consider whether they can take screenshots rather than holding on to your devices and they will always aim to return them to you as quickly as possible. If the police need to hold onto your phone for a while they can offer you a replacement device. You have a right under the Victims’ Code to have any property which has been taken as evidence return to you as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns about how we will use the evidence gathered from your device can ask your police contact and they’ll be happy to answer your questions.

In some cases, the police will need to look at information that other people or organisations hold about you. This is sometimes called ‘third party material’.

For example, they might need to look at medical records if you’ve spoken to your doctor about the incident.

The police will only ever look at this kind of information if they have a reason to believe that it might be relevant to your case.

For example, the police can’t ask for access to your medical records ‘just in case’ there might be something of relevance to the investigation. They also can’t ask for access just because they are investigating a sexual offence.

Before requesting information from a third party the police must consider whether there is another way they could access the information they think might be relevant, for example by speaking to a witness.

If the police decide that they do need to request information from a third party, they will make sure that their request is focused so that they are only asking for the information which they think might be relevant to the case. For example, if they were asking for your medical records they might ask for access to a specific month rather than your full medical record.

The police will keep you up-to-date with the investigation and you should let them know if you have questions or concerns about any of the types of evidence that they might look for.

If you want to, you have the right under the Victims’ Code to give a victim personal statement. This is in addition to your witness statement and it’s your opportunity to explain how the crime has affected you and any worries you have about the case.

You can write your victim personal statement with the police at the same time as you’re providing them with your witness statement or you can add it to the case at any point before each of the court hearings.

Once you’ve made a statement you can’t withdraw it but you can provide an updated version at any time. You should ask your police contact if you’d like to do this.

The police, the CPS and the courts will use your statement to help us understand how the crime has affected you. This will help us to build the strongest possible case and also make sure you get the support you need through the criminal justice process. The defence team will also have access to your statement as part of the material we have to share with them before the trial – you can read more about this in the section on what we need to do before the trial.

Every case is different and there is no single answer to this question. Some cases may be straightforward while others will have a lot of different lines of inquiry which the police will need to follow up or investigate.

You have a right under the Victims Code to be provided with information about the investigation so if you have any questions about the progress of your case you can get in touch with your police contact and they’ll be happy to help.

It can be difficult to wait for updates while the investigation is ongoing but the police will always do their best to gather evidence as quickly as possible so you aren’t waiting longer than is needed.

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