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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.

 

The CPS prosecutor read Dean's Victim Personal Statement to the magistrate. Dean had written...

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The CPS prosecutor read Dean's Victim Personal Statement to the magistrate. Dean had written...

Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
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You said that you made an impact statement for, this is for the, for the coroner’s court or for the…?
 
No, it’s for the magistrate’s court. We were not given the opportunity to, to read an impact statement at the coroner’s court so in the magistrate’s court I made an impact statement.
 
And that was read by the magistrate?
 
It, yes, it was read by CPS, to the, to the magistrate, and in which I mentioned the background of my son, where he came from, you know the sacrifice we’ve made in life for him, giving him a private education, he had so much going for him, he had a great future ahead of him, a young man, as I said earlier, to gain a LLB honours in law, about to complete his Masters, had a place awaiting for him to Harvard to go on to do his PhD, he was minding his own business, sitting innocently waiting for a bus, when these three drivers, unlicensed drivers, insure, no insurance whatsoever, came along, hit him and killed him. Take him away. He never made it for the hospital, where they, it was suggested he was airlifted to, he wasn’t. When I saw him in, in, in the mortuary he had broken, shattered bones, swollen body, and I can’t describe.
 
How has it impacted on your lives, you said it affected you physically.
 
Yes, it has affected us physically in the sense that after his death I suffered a heart, a heart problem, resulting in a triple heart bypass, a week later I came home from hospital my wife became ill, she had a stroke, she had a brain haemorrhage, she herself landed up in hospital for three and a half weeks in intensive care. This, his death, has had a knock on effect on us. These guys, the perpetrators are free to walk.
 
As a matter of fact when he came on to the coroner’s court he stood there with his friends and giving his friend’s high fives. You know for us we had to accept all this, he’s free to walk, he’s there to say hello to his Mum and Dad, and live another day. We can’t, we don’t have anyone. We can’t say, “Hello son, how are you?” Or he’d come and say, “Hi, Mum. I love you Mum.” Stroking his Mum’s hair, these are the things we miss. The only thing we have of him is pictures around the place.
 
Yes. And was that all in your impact statement?
 
It was all in my impact statement. I touched on the fact that at sixteen he, he donated money to his Save the Children fund, the charity, a charity which my wife and I have now increased a huge amount of money, and will continue his memory. I vow that I wanted to do something for, in memory of my son, we are members of RoadPeace, we’ve also decided to contribute towards the local college that, where he went to private, to provide a small bursar to the students, with the help of friends and neighbours, and relatives and my, my MP. And the former Mayor of London, we were able to get a bus shelter and a plaque erected in his memory, at the exact spot where he died. 
 
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.
 

Julie made a Victim Personal Statement. The police officer told her not to make it immediately...

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Julie made a Victim Personal Statement. The police officer told her not to make it immediately...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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Did you have to make an impact statement?
 
I did. I had to be a witness as well because of I’d been to the house on her birthday. And they wanted me to talk about what I’d seen and everything.
 
And because she’d come to stay with me after he’d beat her up on her birthday. So they wanted me to talk about that. So for the first day [of the trial], up until… it started at ten and I had to sit in room with the liaison officer until about two o’clock until they decided that oh we don’t actually need her anymore.
 
But in all this time I wasn’t supposed to talk to my mum or my husband, my sister. I was just supposed to be in this room on my own, which was quite hard because I wanted to be, be there, and I needed them to be with me.
 
Yes. So you didn’t have to go as a witness in the end?
 
No in the end I didn’t. They read my statement out. And then they read my impact statement out at the end.
 
So when, at what stage did the police, was it a police liaison officer, what stage did she get your impact statement?
 
A few weeks before then. It was, it was a man actually. It was a pair of gentlemen. A couple of weeks before the, the hearing. He didn’t want to so it straightaway because he said, “You’ve not had a chance for things to change.”
 
And it’s just silly little things because my children are all grown up. We used to go off on a Friday night; we’d go to Scarborough for fish and chips. And we’d leave the children to look after themselves, because they’re all older teenagers. But now it’s like well we can’t go out unless we’ve got a babysitter.
 
And it’s just silly things like that that have changed really.
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.
 

After Ben died Terri made a Victim Personal Statement. She was annoyed that it was not read out...

After Ben died Terri made a Victim Personal Statement. She was annoyed that it was not read out...

Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
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Did you have to make a Victim’s Statement?
 
Yes, it wasn’t even read out. They didn’t even read it out. It was, you, you had to be there, honestly, to see what a farce it was. And then they wonder why people have got no faith in British justice.
 
Can you explain what a Victim…
 
Yes, a Victim Personal Statement is, my liaison officer came round to the house and basically said, “How has your son’s death affected your life?” And to me, I think how can you put that onto two sheets of A4 paper?
 
It’s bizarre. But I did. And told them all about plans for the future, about how I was much looking, how I’d always wanted a son, which I had.
 
No disrespect to my girls. I just thought if I have a son, I desperately wanted a boy. And I told them all about that and how I’d worked hard to get a good career to support him and how that post, posthumously he had got 9 GCSEs. That came a week after his death. All of it really. And what a void it had left in my life. 
 
But, that, that wasn’t read out. That’s another annoying thing because them three get to read everything that I write and feel and yet we get to see nothing.
 
So the judge will have read it.
 
Yeah, and, and they read it as well. The three people that killed him, they read it.
 
Do they?
 
Yeah. Oh, yeah they read it.
 
Did you ever get an apology?
 
No, never. In fact one of them smirked at my mum when he was going down after getting four years. He stopped and looked at my mum and smiled. A 35 year old man doing that. They were just, they’re just low lives.  
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.
 

Ann was angry when the judge said that her Victim Personal Statement was too upsetting for the...

Ann was angry when the judge said that her Victim Personal Statement was too upsetting for the...

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
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Were you allowed to make a personal statement?
 
I was able to make a personal statement. In fact I wrote my own personal statement. I felt that I knew what my emotions that I felt were all about and it was a bit easier for me to put that in some kind of understandable chronological order, in terms of what we were feeling, rather than someone else trying to write it on my behalf. So I actually wrote it, but to this day I was very saddened by the fact that throughout that court process, we as a family were unable to show any emotion, they, it’s part of the court process that you must not show emotion. When the trial actually started, I in all ignorance in fact, sat in part of the public area, which was reserved for the journalists, and the defense actually said that we were to be moved because we could be influencing the jury.
 
Oh.
 
And that’s quite a common.
 
But did anybody see your personal statement?
 
Well ultimately after the trial the judge felt that it was too upsetting for the jury to hear, and only allowed three sentences to be read out. I felt this was very, very unfair because we had to listen to the very last moments, some very harrowing information about my son’s last moments, and that was far worse for a jury to hear and to see video, CCTV footage. I felt that that, that we should’ve been allowed the whole of that impact statement to be read out. Everyone that has since read that statement has said that it is impactive, surely that’s the purpose of it, to be impactive, but that wasn’t to be, so again that’s one of the reasons why I felt that to give Westley’s life meaning and purpose in a continued way, on another level, I had to channel the emotions and the pain and the grief, and those days where I felt angry into some kind of positive work. 
 
 

Michael and his wife spent hours writing a Victim Personal Statement. Michael thinks the judge...

Michael and his wife spent hours writing a Victim Personal Statement. Michael thinks the judge...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
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Were you asked to make a personal statement for the judge, or the court?
 
We were, we were asked. We were told to give, there’s a victims statement that we were told we would have, we’d have to read out. That was very difficult [writing it]. My, my wife did that actually because I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, and when we went to court the judge wouldn’t allow it. So we were a bit disappointed with that.
 
 
Could you just say a little bit more about the personal statement that your wife wrote?
 
Yes, the judge wouldn’t allow my wife to read it in court, although the members of the jury were all given copies of it, and the judge said it was, he wanted to spare my wife the anguish of actually going up and reading it out. But we spent four or five hours putting that together. There was a lot of tears putting it together and we wanted it read out, but the judge deemed that he didn’t want it done. But at least the jury got to read it. 
 
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.
 

Linda wrote a VPS about the way Kevin's murder had affected her family. The judge suggested that...

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Linda wrote a VPS about the way Kevin's murder had affected her family. The judge suggested that...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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Did you have to make a Statement, how it had affected you? An Impact Statement?
 
We did an Impact Statement. And it’s…
 
Can you explain to people how that happens and what you have to do?
 
The Impact Statement, certainly for myself as his mother and, and obviously the family came right at the beginning. The police wanted to get that right at the beginning. An Impact Statement for the family goes back to Kevin’s whole life. So they, they’ll go right back. In fact before Kevin, they go right back to my life. And my marriage and my children and, you know, my life with my children and, and the devastating effect that it has when you lose a child and the effect it has on the rest of your family, which the judge gets to read. These can be read out in court. And then his girlfriend was asked to do one. But she did one nearer the trial rather than when he’d just died. And the judge actually said in his summing up, and his, not in his summing up but in his sentencing that he had read her statement and he was so moved by it that he’d actually realised that this was the true Kevin and not the Kevin that had been portrayed by the defence in court. And it was on that that he [the murderer] was given 16 ½ years. Now the minimum for murder is 15. So although 15 years is the minimum there are exceptions and a judge can go below that [length of time]. The fact that he will give you 15 and over shows the seriousness of it. If it’s a murder as in my son’s case and the circumstances surrounding it, that’s a minimum of 15 years. If it’s a multiple murder involving children, involving torture, involving rape before death where the person really suffers, the tariff will go up.  
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 October 2015.

Last updated October 2011.

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