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Victims' Guide - The verdict and sentencing

You have the right under the Victims’ Code to be given information about the outcome of the case. You can choose to attend court to hear the verdict. However, it is never clear when a jury will reach a verdict - it could take hours or several days.

You can also choose to attend the sentencing hearing. If you choose not to attend, your police contact will keep you updated with what is happening.

To find the defendant ‘guilty’ the magistrates or district judge in a magistrates’ court or the jury in a Crown Court must be sure that the defendant is guilty. Sometimes you’ll hear this described as ‘sure beyond a reasonable doubt’ or ‘satisfied so you are sure’.

If they aren’t sure that the defendant is guilty then they must find them ‘not guilty’.

In Crown Court trials the judge will as the jury to reach a unanimous verdict - that means, they should all agree on whether the defendant is ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. If they can’t do that after carefully considering and discussing the evidence, the judge can allow them to reach a majority verdict of at least 10 people.

If a defendant is found ‘not guilty’

If a defendant is found ‘Not guilty,’ the case is over and they are allowed to leave the court. If they have been held in prison during the trial, they will be released immediately.

If the defendant is found not guilty, that doesn’t mean you weren’t believed or that people thought you were lying. It simply means the magistrates/district judge or the jury couldn’t be ‘satisfied so they were sure’ that the defendant was guilty.

If a defendant is found ‘guilty’

If the defendant is found ‘guilty,’ the magistrates/District Judge or the judge in the Crown court or can either sentence the defendant straight away or they can adjourn (postpone) the sentencing hearing to ask for more information to help them decide what the sentence should be.

This can include a ‘pre-sentence’ report, written by the Probation Service, which provides an independent assessment of the offender and the risks they pose.

We will also provide the court with your ‘Victim Personal Statement’ if you have provided one. The police will ask you if you’d like to provide one during the investigation - this is your opportunity to explain how the crime has impacted you. If you would like to provide an updated victim personal statement you should speak to your police contact and they will arrange for you to do this.

If you would like to read your ‘Victim Personal Statement’ out loud to the court, then we can apply to the court for you to do this. Otherwise the prosecutor will read it out to the court on your behalf.

If you would like to read your ‘Victim Personal Statement’ to the court yourself, you are entitled to special measures to do so and we will pay for your expenses as before. You can find more in our section Support to give your evidence.

The magistrates or judge will then use that information to decide what sentence the defendant will receive in line with the sentencing guidelines for the offence they’ve been convicted of.

Sentencing guidelines are set by the Sentencing Council in line with the law in England and Wales.

If the defendant has been held in prison awaiting the trial, they will usually be sent back to prison to await the sentence if it’s likely that they will be given a prison sentence by the judge. Normally, any time the defendant has already spent in prison waiting for the trial will count as part of their sentence.

If you decide not to attend the sentencing hearing, then the police will let you know what happened once it has finished.

If the court fails to reach a verdict

If the jury can’t reach a verdict (either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’), then the CPS prosecutor has to decide whether or not to hold another trial. This trial would have to start afresh, hearing all the evidence again.

To make that decision they’ll consider our two-stage test again:
Is there is still enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction - has anything changed during the course of the first trial and are the witnesses still willing and available to give evidence again?

Is the trial still in the public interest - for example, would a delay until a new trial change anything and is that delay proportionate with the sentence the defendant would likely get?

The prosecutor will also take your views as the victim into account.

If we decide to go ahead with a new trial, the court will set a date for it to start.

If we decide not to go ahead with another trial we must make a formal decision to offer no evidence. That means the case is stopped, the defendant will be acquitted and formally found not guilty of the offence(s).

What support is available after the trial has finished?

Many support services continue to provide support after a trial has ended. Going through a trial can be difficult and it’s natural to need more time and help to process what has happened.

Victim Support has teams across the England and Wales who can offer local support and their national helpline is open 24/7.

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