VICTIMS ABROAD: There are several different courses of action to take.
As a rule, it will depend on whether the victim and the suspect were in the same country when the offence happened. In fact, this would be the case most of the time.
In situations such as these, you should make a report to the local police of the country that you and the criminal are in.
It is wise to keep a note of some important details when you make the police report. The very least you need is a record of the date and time that the incident took place.
You should keep records of as much information about the incident as possible. Always note which officer and station have taken your statement when reporting a crime to police.
There are several reasons why this is important. It will help to support any insurance claims you make and it could be crucial if you need to give evidence in a court.
The police advise all victims of crime abroad to contact the nearest British Embassy, Commission, or Consulate. They will be able to help with cases of serious or violent crimes in another country.
Note: As a rule, you must report the crime before leaving the country if you want the police to investigate it. You must also report a lost or stolen passport without delay if it goes missing.
Help from Embassy, Commission, or Consulate
Working hours for British consular staff vary from country to country. But, most Embassies, High Commissions, and Consulates operate an emergency answer phone service outside normal office hours.
There is a limit on the amount of help they can provide for victims of crime abroad. Depending on the individual circumstances of each case, overseas assistance can include:
- Helping the victim understand the local police process. They will also explain how the legal procedures work and whether there is a legal aid scheme available.
- Helping to find an English-speaking legal expert or interpreter (e.g. lawyer, doctor, funeral director).
- Contacting close family and friends to inform them that something happened in a crime overseas. They can also help with international fund transfers if needed.
- Providing consular assistance to arrange for the replacement of important travel documents.
- Providing the most appropriate help for victims who suffer serious assault, rape, or are in hospital.
- Help and support in various other cases abroad (e.g. the death of a relative in suspicious circumstances).
Note: They do not make any guarantee on the character or professional ability of any person you contact. They relinquish their responsibility for you relying on any advice that you receive.
Practical Help the Embassy Cannot Do
As the victim of a crime overseas, you should understand what the British Embassies, High Commissions, and the Consulates cannot do. They will not be able to:
- Offer legal advice to victims of crimes that happen in another country. Also, embassy staff cannot:
- Act on behalf of the victim with local authorities in any legal action.
- Carry out any investigations into a crime, collect evidence, or conduct searches for missing people.
- Get a victim out of prison or prevent local authorities from deporting them after a prison sentence. Likewise, they will not be able to interfere in any criminal or civil court proceedings.
- Accept any ‘recovered’ stolen property after it went missing. Some exceptions apply for passports and driving licences.
- Any recovered driving licences would need returning to the DVLA.
- Stolen passports get cancelled but would need returning to HM Passport Office if they get recovered.
- Get any better treatment for a victim than the locals would get – either in a hospital or in prison. The victims in overseas prisons should receive treatment according to international standards. The embassy can raise their concerns with the local authorities if the treatment falls below it.
- Provide monetary assistance (e.g. for travel costs to an overseas trial, pay bills, or replace stolen property).
You might need some help reporting a crime that happened in another country. That means you will need to find and contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
The GOV.UK website has a list of contact details of British Embassies, Consulates, and High Commissions around the world.
If Victim and Suspect are in Different Countries
Not all cases of overseas crimes happen in the same country. It is not uncommon for the victim and the suspect to be in different countries when the crime occurs.
In this case, you would need to make a police report in your own country. Do not make the report in the country where you think the crime took place.
The reason has to do with following official procedures when investigating international crime. The request for an investigation must come from a recognised law enforcement authority.
There are some extra steps you can take to help yourself when traveling abroad. What should you do if you become a victim of crime?
If you’ve been assaulted abroad you should:
- Contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate (especially if you got arrested or admitted into a hospital).
- Inform the local police about the incident without delay and insist on getting a police report from them.
As a victim of theft abroad you should:
- Make a list of the items that got stolen.
- Inform the local police without delay and get a police report (required for insurance or compensation claims).
- Immediately cancel your credit cards and any travellers cheques and re-book your travel tickets.
- Contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate if it was your passport that got stolen. They can issue a replacement travel document once they complete a few checks.
Victim of Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad
Specific help is available for a victim of rape or sexual assault abroad. You should not hesitate to contact the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
The staff will do their best to be non-judgemental, patient, polite, and sensitive. Most victims of rape and sexual assault prefer to talk about their ordeal with a female. They will try to arrange for a female officer to be present at any meeting.
The kind of help and support they provide includes:
- Arranging for someone to go with you to one of the local police stations.
- Making arrangements for a medical examination or finding an English-speaking doctor.
- Seeking local advice on sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and abortions according to the laws and customs in the country.
- Getting expert advice, counselling, and professional help for you in the other country and back in the United Kingdom.
Note: The rape victim must choose whether to report a sexual assault to the local police – or not. But, talking to a friend or relative straight away can help. If you got assaulted abroad, try to avoid keeping it to yourself.
Sexual Assault Support Organisations
Confidential advice and sensitive help about rape or sexual assault is available from:
Note: You may be able to claim compensation if you’re the victim of crime abroad.
Death in Suspicious Circumstances Abroad
The death of a family member, or a friend, in another country is always tragic and distressing. It becomes even more so if the death occurred under suspicious circumstances.
As the next of kin, you may have some concerns about the circumstances surrounding a death overseas. If so, you should always seek professional legal advice.