Who Can Write a Victim Impact Statement Once a prisoner becomes eligible for parole, the Parole Board make the decision on whether they get released into the community – or not.
They also make recommendations on whether it would be ‘safer’ to transfer a prisoner to an open prison instead.
Making a victim personal statement is a basic right of victims after a crime in the United Kingdom. Presenting a VPS to the Parole Board can also help them to determine the fate of a prisoner.
A VPS gives the victim an opportunity to tell, using their own words, how a crime has affected them. The Parole Board will consider all the information submitted in a victim statement. You can also update a VPS as part of a parole review for an offender.
Note: In Scotland, the Victim Notification Scheme allows you to make a written representation to the Scottish Parole Board.
The Victim of a Prisoner
If you are the direct victim of someone in prison, you can make an impact statement or VPS. You can then have it presented (read out) at the prisoner’s parole hearing.
Note: A direct victim of a prisoner would be someone who suffered mental or physical harm, or an economic loss.
Close Relatives of a Victim
Any close relative of a victim of crime can also make a victim personal statement to the Parole Board. In most cases, the letter gets submitted in place of a victim who is:
- No longer alive.
- Under 18 years of age.
- Incapable of making a victim statement themselves (e.g. due to a mental incapacity or an illness).
A close relative refers most to a spouse or a civil partner. But, it can also include siblings, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, and some dependants. In some cases, a family member, a guardian, or a victim’s carer may present an impact statement.
It is not uncommon for several relatives to want to make a statement. If so, the Parole Board can request for only one or two statements that represent the views of the relatives.
How the Parole Board use a Victim Statement
The panel of a Parole Board use the information presented to them in a victim statement. It can influence their decision on whether they consider a prisoner to be a risk to the public. Thus, the Parole Board panel use victim impact statements to:
- Learn what impact the particular offence had on the victim [you].
- Decide whether they need to put certain conditions on a prisoner after a release (e.g. electronic tagging).
As a rule, the Parole Board make the final decision either in private or at an ‘oral hearing’ (see below). The victim can ask to read out their own statement by attending the hearing. You can also have it read out on your behalf if you prefer not to attend.
When to Make a Victim Personal Statement
Opting into the Victim Contact Scheme means you get informed when a prisoner is getting considered for parole. Your Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) would tell you before it actually happens. They will also let you know when to write a victim statement and they can send it to the Parole Board on your behalf.
You do not have to join the scheme to make a victim impact statement for the Parole Board. Instead, you should contact your local probation office for further advice. But, you must submit the statement at least 28 days before the hearing takes place.
Note: Free help and support for crime victims is available from your local Victims’ Information Service.
Help Writing a Victim Impact Statement
You should use the letter as an opportunity to explain how you feel as a victim of crime. You should state how the crime has affected you and any of your family – and whether it still does. For example, do you suffer emotional, physical, or financial difficulties because of it.
You can choose to update the statement that was already written for the prisoner’s trial if you want to. Or, you can write a new one, but either way:
- You must always submit a written version of your victim personal statement
- If it is an ‘oral hearing’ you can usually choose one of several ways to present your statement (e.g. by you or by another person).
- It should take no more than ten (10) minutes for someone else (if not you) to read out the statement.
What You Must Include in a Victim Statement:
- How the crime affected you at the time it got committed.
- How the crime has affected you since it happened.
- How the release of the prisoner (or a move to an open prison) would affect you (or your family, your friends, or the local community).
What Not to Include in a Victim Statement:
- Your opinions on whether the prisoner should get released.
- Lengthy drawn-out descriptions of the original crime.
- Any critical comments, or threats, to or about the offender or the panel on the Parole Board.
Note: Inform your Victim Liaison Officer if you feel you have extra information that may help influence the Parole Board’s a decision.
Statement Guidelines for Children and Young Victims
There may be instances where the victim chooses not to, or is unable to, make a written impact statement. In this case, a child can give the information to their Victim Liaison Officer instead. You can tell them:
- How you and members of your family got hurt.
- How the crime has made you feel since.
- What feelings you will have if they release the offender from prison.
The Victim Liaison Officer will record the information and pass it to the Parole Board. The parent or the guardian can also choose to make a victim personal statement to the Parole Board.
Prisoner Access to Victim Impact Statements
As a rule, the prisoner will get full access to any victim personal statements that get presented at their parole hearing. But, you can make a request that the prisoner does not get access to your victim statement if:
- You can show a valid reason how it might put you or members of your family at risk.
- You can make a good case of how it would have a negative effect on you in some other way.
There must be exceptional circumstances to withhold a victim personal statements from a prisoner. You should ask your Victim Liaison Officer if you this option considered.
Presenting a Statement at a Parole Hearing
As a rule, you can choose how your statement gets presented and read out at the hearing. You can either:
- Ask to give your statement to the Parole Board for the panel to read it themselves.
- Make a request to attend the hearing yourself and then read out your own victim statement in person.
- Make a request to attend the hearing but choose another person to read out your statement for you.
- Ask that someone else attends the hearing instead of you and for them to read out the statement.
Some hearings will allow you to read out your statement via a live video link. It is not uncommon for the hearing to allow a recording for the panel instead.
Attending a parole hearing is not one of the legal rights for victims of crime in Great Britain. Even though they will usually grant a request for attendance to a hearing, they can choose to refuse it.
Note: In most cases, your Victim Liaison Officer, a family member, or a friend can accompany you at the hearing. But, the person you take with you would usually need to be at least 18 years old.
The panel will ask you to read out your victim statement at the Parole Board hearing. You cannot add anything extra to the written statement. Thus, the panel will not usually ask you any questions. Once you have presented your statement, the panel will then ask you to leave the room. The parole hearing will continue and your Victim Liaison Officer will inform you of the outcome. It is rare for a prisoner to be present while their victim reads out an impact statement. In most cases, a legal representative of the prisoner will attend instead. You can make a request for the prisoner to be present while you read out your statement. But, the Parole Board would need to allow it and the prisoner would also need to agree to it.
Prisoners at Parole Board Hearings
The panel will ask you to read out your victim statement at the Parole Board hearing. You cannot add anything extra to the written statement. Thus, the panel will not usually ask you any questions.
Once you have presented your statement, the panel will then ask you to leave the room. The parole hearing will continue and your Victim Liaison Officer will inform you of the outcome.
It is rare for a prisoner to be present while their victim reads out an impact statement. In most cases, a legal representative of the prisoner will attend instead.
You can make a request for the prisoner to be present while you read out your statement. But, the Parole Board would need to allow it and the prisoner would also need to agree to it.