- The police investigation
- Contact with the Crown Prosecution Service
- Victim Personal Statements
- Charging someone
- Victim's Right to Review
- Criminal offences related to road death and serious injury
The police investigation
A death on the road is investigated by the police and you can contact them to find out how an investigation is progressing.
The police have a duty to gather evidence that might indicate someone, or more than one person, committed a crime and needs to be prosecuted. A police investigation can take a long time. How long it takes will depend on your case, and the police can advise you.
Often a crash has one or more causes that can be identified. Sometimes, but not always, one or more of these causes is a crime.
Sometimes one or more causes are not due to a crime. It is not the main purpose of the police investigation to identify those other causes or call for any changes to be made to eliminate those causes.
If someone has died, but there is no evidence a criminal offence has been committed, then no one will be charged. Criminal charges require criminal evidence.
Even if a driver is suspected of committing a criminal offence, they may not be arrested. A driver will only be arrested if certain conditions are met. If they are not arrested, they will be interviewed under caution at a later date, and may be charged with committing an offence.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides whether a criminal charge will be brought against a person.
You have the right to be provided with information about the police investigation. This is written into a government document called ‘Code of practice for victims of crime’ (Victims’ Code). You can access this document at www.brake.org.uk/codes-and-standards.
Evidence from people
People involved in the crash can be tested for alcohol, drugs and have their eyesight checked. This includes testing injured drivers if permission is given by medical staff caring for them.
The police may seek other medical evidence to help show what happened in a crash. Medical evidence may be provided by staff who tended to a loved one at the crash or in hospital, and by the pathologist who did the post-mortem examination (see Section 1: What happens now?).
People involved in the crash, or who witnessed the crash or events leading up to or after the crash, may be asked to give a statement. They may also be asked to give the police their mobile phones.
If there are not enough witnesses, police may issue an appeal for witnesses, through the media or through notices at the scene.
Giving a statement
The police may take statements from different people. If you were involved in the crash, you saw the crash, or you saw vehicles before or after the crash, you may be asked to give a statement.
If you were not involved in the crash, but knew the movements of a loved one on the day they died, you may be asked to give a statement.
If you give a statement, the police will write down and may record what you say.
If you give a statement, a lawyer, or more than one lawyer, may want to interview you too. This is an essential part of the investigation and helps lawyers understand the evidence you are providing.
Your contact details remain confidential - they cannot be given to someone accused of a crime.
It may be possible for a relative or friend to attend an interview with you to offer support. If you want to be accompanied ask if this is possible. If you have particular communication needs you may also be entitled to assistance from an interpreter or intermediary (someone who helps communicate questions the police ask, and your answers).
The police may also offer you the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement.
If you give a statement, you may or may not be required, at a later date, to give evidence in court. For information about giving evidence in court and support to help you do this, see Section 4: Court cases.
Evidence from vehicles
Crash investigation officers, employed by the police or other agencies working in partnership with the police, may remove and examine vehicles to:
- find out if they are mechanically defective
- get more information about what happened, by studying vehicle damage or vehicle electronic data, for example a vehicle’s speed and braking, or how long it was driven for.
Cameras attached to a vehicle that were pointing at the driver, or the road, may provide vital information. Cameras are also used by some cyclists.
If a lorry, bus or coach was involved, then a vehicle examiner with particular expertise in studying commercial vehicles should carry out the vehicle examination. They may look at brakes and other potential major faults and any driving records (showing when a driver took breaks and how long for).
Evidence from the scene
Crash investigation officers can photograph, video and measure the crash location, at the time of the crash and sometimes later too.
They record things like vehicle positions in the crash, skid marks on the road, and damage to objects, such as bollards. They also analyse any available footage, for example from street cameras (CCTV).
If the crash involved someone driving for work
If the crash involved someone driving for work, the police or other agencies may need to investigate their employer, to find out if there was any failure by the employer to ensure a vehicle was safe or driven safely.
They may need to interview people or seize paperwork.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may get involved in the investigation. HSE inspectors aim to identify whether an employer has failed to ensure effective health and safety procedures were in place and followed.
The investigation will usually be conducted jointly with the police. The police will be able to tell you if the HSE are involved. The HSE can take enforcement action against an employer.
For more information about the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), go to www.hse.gov.uk.
The police are required to meet certain standards for how they investigate fatal road crashes. These standards are written into a police document called ‘Authorised Professional Practice (APP): Investigation of fatal and serious injury road collisions’.
After the crash, the police may prepare a basic collision report that contains information about who was involved, where the crash happened, who witnessed the crash and the circumstances of the crash.
If someone has died, the investigating officer prepares a full report that contains additional information, such as witness statements, a forensic collision investigation report and a post-mortem report. It can take the police a long time to gather all the evidence they need and prepare the full report. This will depend on your case and your police contact can advise you.
If the police investigation finds any evidence that suggests a crime may have been committed, this evidence is compiled into a prosecution report. This report is sent to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if one or more criminal charges should be brought against anyone. For more information about this process, talk to your police contact.
You are not automatically entitled to see any of the police reports. You may be able to get a copy after any criminal proceedings have finished, or if there is no criminal prosecution.
If you wish to see a copy of a police report or parts of it, you or your solicitor can ask the police. You may have to pay for it. If you are using a solicitor to make a claim for compensation, your solicitor may be able to reclaim the charge as part of the claim.
Before reading a police report, you may want to ask your solicitor or police contact what it contains. Police reports often contain sensitive evidence which you may find upsetting. It will be possible for the police or your solicitor to remove anything you don’t want to see or read.
The police are required to meet certain standards for the disclosure of information after a road crash. These standards are written into a Crown Prosecution Service document called 'Disclosure of Material to Third Parties'.
The Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is the main agency responsible for prosecuting criminal cases that have been investigated by the police in England and Wales. It works from regional offices.
The purpose of a criminal prosecution is to find out if someone has broken the law and appropriately sentence them.
The CPS employs lawyers who use a two-part test to decide whether a person should be prosecuted:
- There must be enough evidence for a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’. This means that it is more likely than not that the person will be convicted. (This is different to the way a court decides whether to convict a person. A court should convict someone only if they are sure they are guilty.)
- It must be in the public interest to prosecute. If someone has died as a result of a crime, a prosecution is usually in the public interest.
The CPS will only make a decision to prosecute a case if both parts of the test are met.
Following a review of the evidence, the CPS selects the most appropriate charge or charges to reflect the seriousness and extent of any offending.
There may be rules about the time frames for starting a prosecution. The CPS or your police contact can advise you.
The general principles the CPS must follow when making decisions on cases are written into a CPS document called ‘The Code for Crown Prosecutors’. You can access this document at www.brake.org.uk/codes-and-standards.
Meeting the CPS
The CPS must meet with you if certain serious charges are being heard. The CPS should also meet with you if substantial changes are being made to a criminal charge or if a criminal charge is being dropped. Evidence relating to the case cannot be disclosed to you at a meeting with the CPS.
If you aren't offered a meeting, and you would like to talk to the CPS, you can ask if a meeting is possible.
To find contact details for your local CPS office, go to www.cps.gov.uk.
Telling the CPS what you think, and staying informed
The CPS acts on behalf of the public interest, not on behalf of victims. However, when deciding if a prosecution is in the public interest, the CPS should consider your views about how the death of a loved one has affected your life and the lives of others.
You can help the CPS to hear your views and help them inform you about a criminal prosecution (whether it is happening, or if charges are changed or dropped, and reasons why). You can:
- make a Victim Personal Statement
- contact the CPS and ask them to keep you informed. You can do this directly or through your police contact, or solicitor
- ask for a meeting with the CPS.
Victim Personal Statements
A Victim Personal Statement is a written statement by you, about the effect of the crash on you and your family.
In your statement you can explain how the crash has affected your life and others’ lives, for example physically, emotionally, and financially.
A Victim Personal Statement cannot be used to express thoughts on who caused a crash or punishment they should be given.
A Victim Personal Statement is an important document because it:
- will be read by the CPS when considering prosecution decisions
- becomes part of the CPS’s case papers and helps show the level of harm caused by an alleged offence. This is considered when sentencing someone, along with evidence and sentencing rules
- can be used within a claim for compensation by you (see Section 5: Can I claim compensation?)
- can be taken into account if decisions are being made about an imprisoned offender’s parole (for example, their release date)
- can help the public understand the effect of crashes and the importance of road safety, if it is read in court and reported in the media
- will be seen by a person who committed a crime, but usually not before they have pleaded guilty or been found guilty.
If the police have not already offered the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement, ask your police contact. If you think of something later, that you want to add, you can make another statement.
You do not have to make a Victim Personal Statement if you do not want to. It will not damage the case in any way or affect whether the defendant is found guilty or not guilty.
Help writing your Victim Personal Statement
You can write your own statement or someone else can write down what you say. You may wish to seek help with your statement, to ensure you:
- comply with the rules about what can be said in it
- say everything you want to say, with accuracy
- say everything that may be useful to be heard in various circumstances, for example prior to sentencing someone, when considering parole, or in a claim for compensation you are pursuing
- express your thoughts in ways that reflect your views and values.
You may want to seek help from:
- a solicitor you have hired to pursue a claim for compensation (see Section 5: Can I claim compensation?). They can make sure you include things in your statement relevant to that claim
- the National Road Victim Service
- your police contact
- a charity that supports victims of crime
- other people you know in your family or community.
You may particularly want to seek help if you have challenges communicating, for example due to English not being your first language, or due to disability or illness.
For more information and a guide to making a Victim Personal Statement, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘victim personal statement’.
Charging someone with an offence
Someone who is charged with an offence is often called 'the accused'. If the CPS decides to prosecute, they may be arrested and taken to a police station to be charged. Alternatively, they may be issued with a court summons which describes the offence and when the case will be heard in court.
The possibility of bail
An accused person may be remanded in custody (imprisoned) or given bail (allowed to remain free before their case is heard). The accused will be granted bail unless the court has reason to believe they would:
- not attend a court appearance
- commit an offence while on bail
- interfere with witnesses
- obstruct the course of justice.
An accused person remanded in custody may apply for bail at different stages, even if bail has been refused earlier. They may appeal against a decision not to grant bail. If bail is refused on appeal, the accused can ask for the decision to be reviewed, but only if there is good reason. If bail is granted, the prosecution can only appeal against the decision in rare circumstances.
People on bail are required to turn up, when required, to court hearings. Other conditions may include limiting where the accused person can live, or preventing them coming near you or your home or near someone else. A person on bail can also be electronically tagged.
Decisions about whether an accused person can drive
A court may require an accused person to refrain from driving as a condition of bail, but only if it considers that it is necessary to prevent them from committing further offences.
Otherwise, an accused person who is on bail and who possesses a valid driving licence will be allowed to continue driving while awaiting trial.
If convicted of a crime, they may or may not be disqualified from driving.
If the accused is granted bail and their behaviour concerns you concern, for example you see them driving in a way you consider dangerous, or if they threaten you, report it to your police contact.
Changes to charges
Sometimes, if the accused is charged with a serious offence, their lawyers ask the CPS for the charge to be changed to a less serious offence.
This request can happen before a case goes to trial.
The CPS may decide to continue charging the accused with the serious offence or may decide to charge the accused with a less serious offence. Their decision is based on the evidence and what is in the public interest. It may include factors such as the availability of witnesses.
Victim's Right to Review
If you are unhappy with a police or CPS decision about prosecution, you may have the right to request a review of the decision under the Victims’ Right to Review Scheme.
To find out if you qualify for the Victims’ Right to Review scheme, talk to your police contact or the CPS. For more information, go to www.cps.gov.uk and click on ‘Victims & witnesses’.
Bringing a private prosecution or a judicial review
It is sometimes possible for a member of the public, rather than the CPS, to prosecute another person for a criminal offence. This is called a private prosecution. The process is very expensive and you cannot claim legal aid.
Members of the public can also use a process called judicial review
to challenge the way the CPS has made a decision about prosecution. This process is also expensive.
For more information about charging policy, go to www.cps.gov.uk.
Click on the link below for a list of criminal offences that someone can be convicted of following death on the road. Many people find it helpful to know that:
- some offences mention that a death or deaths have occurred, but others do not
- sometimes it is only possible for someone to be charged with an offence that does not mention the death or deaths
- sometimes a person, or more than one person, is charged with committing more than one offence.
If you need more information about why someone has, or hasn't, been charged with a particular offence, you can ask the CPS for a meeting, or ask your solicitor if you are using one. You can also ask the National Road Victim Service for help.