The four stages of a police investigation

Phase 1

Initial report – A report is made, forensic evidence is gathered (where possible) and support referrals will be offered.
Once an initial report has been made to us, we will first take any necessary action to ensure your safety. You will then be asked to give an account of what happened to you, to begin the first steps of the investigation.

If there might be any recent forensic evidence to collect in your case, you will be asked to go for a medical examination at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) but only if it is necessary and only with your consent.

The activities in Phase 1 mean we can start our investigation, secure vital evidence and protect you and other people from any further harm.

We will offer to refer you to a specialist support service, for example to an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA), who can support you throughout the criminal justice process and act as your single point of contact, with us and witness support, if you wish. You can also self-refer to these support services. Accessing Support

Phase 2
Investigation – Your statement is taken and the investigation continues with further evidence gathering.
The activities of Phase 2 will give us more information about the crime you have reported. After your initial report, you will be asked to give a formal statement. This is sometimes called an ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ (ABE) statement where you will be asked to recall the event(s) in as much detail as possible, to help with the investigation.

With your consent, the ABE will be video recorded. If the case goes to trial, the video can be played in court instead of you having to give your account in person.

During this phase we may ask for your consent to secure evidence from your phone, social media accounts or ask you about relevant records held by other organisations. You will be kept updated about your case progress and can continue to access independent, confidential support, including pre-trial therapy.

Phase 3
Building the case – We build the case and may work with the Law Officers’ Department (LOD).
At this point, it may feel like things slow down. Our aim in this phase is to build the strongest case possible against the suspect which can often take a long time, sometimes months. However, you will still be kept regularly updated about the progress of your case, as per a contact plan which we will set up with you.

If we believe there is enough evidence, we will ask the LOD for their opinion about charging a suspect with offence(s) and share with them the evidence we have collected. It may be that police feel there is insufficient evidence to continue with a prosecution, in which case we will not refer to the LOD and will make a decision to close the investigation. You will be informed of the reasons why we believe we are unable to proceed at that time.

Phase 4
Prosecution decision – A decision is made on whether the suspects(s) will be charged and face trial. You have a right to appeal this decision.
In this phase, all the available evidence is assessed thoroughly and a decision is made about whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to court.

The case might be closed at this stage, if it is decided there is not enough evidence available for there to be a realistic prospect that the suspect could be convicted if the case went to court.

A case may also be closed if a prosecution is prevented or ‘not in the public interest’, for example if the suspect is too old or sick to stand trial. If you do not agree with the decision to close your case, you are entitled to seek a review of the decision under the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme. If it is decided there is enough evidence to take your case to court, you can receive support from an ISVA and the Witness Liaison service throughout the trial process.

Your ISVA will always ensure you understand and feel comfortable

After the trial, the accused could be found guilty or not guilty. If the accused is found guilty, they may receive a sentence from the court.
The court can order different types of punishment, and some cases may not result in the offender going to prison. If the offender goes to prison, the probation service can continue to manage this person with conditions once they are released. The Witness Liaison service is responsible for keeping you informed of when the offender will be eligible for release from prison. Whatever the outcome of the case, we will support you throughout the process.


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