What to expect during a police investigation
The police have a duty of care to protect people from harm and help keep our communities safe. If you are a victim of crime, they should listen to you and treat you with respect.
Find out more about what happens when you report a crime. Understanding the process will prepare you for what to expect.
Making a witness statement
After you have reported a crime to the police, they may need to take a witness statement from you – this is your account of what has happened and it can be used as evidence in the trial if the case goes to court. It may be a written statement or a video recording.
Providing a victim personal statement
You should also be given the chance to make a ‘Victim Personal Statement’ (VPS) – this is your opportunity to explain to people how the crime has affected you. If your case goes to court, it may be shared with people in the courtroom.
- You'll be able to make a VPS at the same time as you give your witness statement to the police. Even if you aren’t required to give a witness statement because you weren’t actually a witness to the crime, you can still you can still provide a VPS if you are:intimidated or vulnerable, have been persistently targeted, or are the victim of a serious crime
- the parent or guardian of a young victim of crime
- a close relative of someone who's died as a result of the crime
Crimes that happened a long time ago
You can still report crimes to the police that happened a long time ago - the process and investigation will be the same as for a recent incident.
Whatever your situation and whenever the crime took place, you are still entitled to receive help and support.
Crime reference numbers and incident numbers
When you contact the police to report a crime, the person answering the call will give you a unique reference number called a ‘force-wide incident number’. The police call this a FWIN.
If the incident you have reported is definitely a crime (not all calls to the police are), you will also be assigned a crime reference number. For some crimes (e.g. if your car has been stolen), the police may record the crime over the phone and give you the crime reference number immediately. You can then use this to help with any insurance processes.
If an officer attends the scene of the incident, the crime will usually be recorded the same day and you will be sent a letter containing the crime reference number.
Keeping a note of these numbers will help the police to answer your inquiries more quickly if you contact them with questions later on. However, don’t worry if you lose these details as they will still be able to trace the information without them.
Keeping you up to date
The police have a responsibility to keep you informed throughout the investigation. They should ask you how you wish to be kept updated and how often. This may be through meeting face-to-face, email, letter or by phone.
If you want to find out about your case, call the police using 101 and ask to be put through to Greater Manchester Police Public Service Desk – they should update you or put in a request for the investigating officer to get in touch.
To help them deal with your inquiry as quickly as possible, try to have your crime reference number or incident number to hand.
If they have a suspect, the police will let you know within 5 working days of them being:
- released without charge
- released on bail
- given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice
If a suspect is released without charge or given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice, your case won't go to court.
You are still entitled to help and support if this happens.
Be prepared for an outcome you may not want or expect
You don’t have to report crime, but if you do, your information could be used to prevent future crimes and help keep people safe.
If you do decide to make a report, the police and other agencies involved will do all they can to support you and make sure that justice is served. However it’s important that you understand the process and prepare yourself for an outcome that you may not want or expect, for example:
The crime may not be investigated
When you report a crime to the police, they will decide if they can investigate it.
Unfortunately it may not be possible for the police to investigate everything reported to them – for example, if it is a form of anti-social behaviour which isn’t a crime.
In some cases, they simply won’t have enough evidence to investigate – this can sometimes happen in the case of car crimes, or burglaries.
The investigation may take a very long time and may not be solved
Sometimes crimes can take a long time to investigate. Some cases may be closed and reopened if new evidence comes to light.
Unfortunately not all crimes will be solved.
It may not be possible to bring someone to justice for the crime
Even if the police have a suspect in mind, it will not always be possible to arrest or convict the person. This may be because there is not enough evidence or there are other complicating factors.
Getting help and support
If you report a crime to the police, they may put you in touch with a victim support service. It is up to you whether or not you choose to receive this support.
Even if you turn it down, you can always get help and support at a later date, regardless of when the crime took place.
You can also get help and support if no one was caught or convicted for the crime, or if they were found not guilty.
Involving the media
Sometimes when police need to get information from the public about your case they may give information to the media. They will always discuss this with you beforehand and will not give personal details without your consent.
If you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape, it is against the law for anyone to publish anything that could identify you – for example, your name or your photo.
Making a complaint
As a victim of crime, you must be treated with respect by police and they should listen to and do their best to respond to any questions or concerns you have. If you don’t think you have received the service you should have from the police, you can make a complaint.
Going to court
When the police have completed their investigation, they must decide whether or not they have enough evidence and information to take the case to court.