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What happens when you're a victim of a crime?

We spoke to a victim of a serious assault about their experience from being a victim of an assault to giving statements, identifying the culprit and being called to give evidence in court.

We asked:

When did the assault happen?

What happened?

What did you have to do to help the investigation?

Did you have to identify the perpetrator again?

When were you asked to give evidence?

What happened at court?

What sentence did the perpetrator receive?

What advice would you give to someone going through this process?

More information

How Police Scotland helps victims of crime

When did the assault happen?

In November 2015 I was the victim of a serious assault in Glasgow as I made my way home from a gig.

What happened?

Officer taking statementOne minute I was walking towards my flat and the next knocked to the floor with a bloody head wound.

It was a busy Thursday night in the centre of Glasgow. Walking past a busy bar a man suddenly rushed towards me shouting a number of expletives before pulling a bottle from his pocket and hitting me over the top of the head. 

He quickly ran away and into the night. All because he thought I was a supporter of a rival football team.

Despite a case of concussion and a painful wound, male bravado kicked in and I was willing to walk the injury off and head back to my flat for a good night’s kip.

A couple of guys – who had hung around to access the lasting damage – thought different however and called for an ambulance. 

A few minutes later said ambulance materialised, flashing lights and all, followed sharply by a couple of Police Scotland officers.

As soon as I entered the ambulance, the reality of the situation kicked in - why had this happened to me? What had I done to deserve getting attacked?

What did you have to do to help the investigation?

First of all I spoke to the officers about what had happened and, after a visit to A&E at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to get staples in my head, I was offered a lift back to my flat. Once back in the flat, I handed over my clothes to be used for DNA testing.

A few days later I was visited by a detective and the events of the evening were revisited step by step. A new statement was provided and it was outlined that they would do everything in their power to catch the perpetrator.

Did you have to identify the perpetrator again?

Man being cuffed arrestedA couple of months after the initial assault I was informed that a CCTV appeal had been published through the media and one evening was surprised to see an image of the man on the BBC, STV and other media outlets.

The appeal obviously did its job as a few weeks later I was called by another detective with the news that a man had been arrested following a member of the public identifying him. I was later told he had been charged and released on bail.

In July 2016 I was asked to attend a Video Identification Parade at a police station in Glasgow, whereby a video parade of eight men were played on a screen and I had to identify the culprit. It was a fairly straightforward process and I came out 99.9% certain I had identified the right person.

I had seen identification parades on TV and films which presented a group of people gathering in line in front of you. Thankfully things were done much differently this time with the suspects being filmed at a different location, before a video was played to myself at the police office. No chance of bumping into the attacker outside the station then!

When were you asked to give evidence?

It was on a Friday evening in February 2017 that an officer turned up at my door with a citation in her hand. This was an official letter asking me to attend Glasgow Sheriff Court to give evidence as the trial was due to begin in a few weeks.

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Police Scotland recognises the importance of providing victims and witnesses with appropriate support and aim to ensure that the needs of all victims of crime are considered; and, that access to victim support services is made available as part of the process, from the initial report to any subsequent court proceedings. 

Specialist Crime Division, August 2017

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In preparation for the court case I received a call from the Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service and arranged for a court visit to familiarise myself with the court surroundings. 

I arranged to meet someone from the VIA at Glasgow Sheriff Court a week before the trial. The visit lasted about half an hour and put me at ease about the process of a court case, the prospect of speaking at court and where to wait. I left the court room after the visit feeling ready and more comfortable with the thought of giving evidence.

You can learn more about the Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service on the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal website.

What happened at court?

On the day of the citation, I turned up at Glasgow Sheriff Court early expecting to give evidence.

Unfortunately - after a 2 and a half hour wait in the witness waiting room - I was informed the trial wouldn’t go ahead on that day and was asked to return on a separate date.

In May 2017, after a couple of unsuccessful court visits, I turned up and was told on arrival that the case would be resolved one way or another.

Just as I was getting myself ready to provide evidence in the court room, I was soon informed by a lawyer that the man who was on trial had pled guilty to the assault at the last minute.

Glasgow Sheriff CourtCourt case avoided and with that the process had therefore come to an end. I walked away from court that day with a sense of satisfaction, safe in the knowledge that after 18 months the case had come to a conclusion and I could move on.

By definition I was the ‘complainer’ and therefore would have been first up to give evidence. Had the ‘accused’ not pleaded guilty I would have been provided an opportunity to view my statement again before going into the court room.

I was told I would have been asked questions by both the Prosecution and Defence, and beforehand had been encouraged to answer truthfully in as little or as much detail as I wanted. As it happened I was not required to give evidence but felt ready to do so.

What sentence did the perpetrator receive?

As I left court I was told to phone the Procurator Fiscal the following week for an update on sentencing. A few days later I phoned the Procurator Fiscal to be told the perpetrator had received an 18-month sentence for the assault.

What advice would you give to someone going through this process?

Be patient. It can take months for the process to unfold. If you are thinking of giving up, remember that you didn’t deserve to be a victim and the perpetrator deserves to be punished. 

If you have been a victim of a crime get in touch with Police Scotland as soon as you can, don’t suffer in silence. If the perpetrator goes unpunished, who’s to say they won’t target someone else again?


More information

If you are a victim of a crime or a witness you can ask questions about the case from the Scottish Court Service (SCS) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

You can ask for information about:

  • why the police are not investigating the crime or why they have stopped an investigation,
  • why COPFS are not taking a case to court,
  • what is happening with a case,
  • what is happening with a case in court,
  • what offence a person has been charged with,
  • what decision the judge or sheriff made about the case.

For more information visit The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 page on the Police Scotland website.

How Police Scotland helps victims of crime

Police Scotland recognises the importance of providing victims and witnesses with appropriate support and aim to ensure that the needs of all victims of crime are considered; and, that access to victim support services is made available as part of the process, from the initial report to any subsequent court proceedings. 

Police Officers will provide each victim of crime with a Victims' Care Card which was created to assist Police Scotland in complying with Victim' Rights (Scotland) regulations 2015, in relation to providing victims with certain information which assists them in understanding the criminal justice process and their rights within that process.  

Police StationThe card records the basic elements of the crime and that the victim can request to have a person of their choice or legal representative with them while they give a statement to police.  It also signposts the victim to where Police Scotland's Standards of Service can be accessed and where the Victim's Code can be obtained.

A consistent national consent-only referral process to victim support services has been developed and implemented, which will not only only improve the knowledge of officers of the important role these services can provide, but will also assist greatly in ensuring support is available when required by those who need it most.  Victim support services, on receiving the referral, will work with victims to identify what service best meets their particular needs which involves a joined up and streamlined partnership approach with other support organisations.  

Police Scotland also work in partnership with COPFS (Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service) to highlight vulnerabilities and ensure needs are addressed when victims attend court such as receiving support and assistance from Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service.