Victims' Right to Review
This guide explains how the victim of a crime can ask COPFS to review a decision not to take action or to stop prosecuting a case after it has started in court.
What is the Victims’ Right to Review?
If you are the victim in a case reported to us, you have a right to ask us to review a decision not to take action in the first place or to stop or discontinue a case after a case has started in court.
When a crime is reported to COPFS, we make a decision whether or not to prosecute. We take into account the available evidence and the public interest.
Sometimes the decision may not be the one that you were hoping for. We understand the impact this can have on you and your family.
This is why victims in Scotland have a right to:
- ask COPFS about how we came to our decision
- have a say in what happens
- ask us to review our decision if we were not going to prosecute
Can I apply for a review?
If you just want to know why we did not take action on a case, you do not have to apply for a review.
Our Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service may have already been in touch with you about your case. If so, you should contact them for more information.
You can also contact our Enquiry Point to get more information about why we did not take action on your case.
If you would like COPFS to review the decision taken in a case you will usually need to be personally affected by the crime, for example:
- the person who has suffered directly because of the crime (aged 12+)
- a family member of a victim who died as a result or is under the age of 18
- a business or other organisation which is the victim
We can only review decisions taken by COPFS and cannot review decisions made by the court.
Victims can ask for a review if the decision:
- was made on or after 1 July 2015
- resulted in no action being taken in a criminal case reported by the police or another agency
- stopped a case after it has gone to court
When reviews are not possible
In some cases, victims are not able to get a review:
- where a court has decided a case
- where the judge has acquitted the accused or stopped the trial due to a lack of evidence
- where a charge is stopped but court proceedings for other charges with the same victim continue
- where we have accepted a plea from the accused
- cases handled without going to court; these include direct measures and referrals to the Children's Reporter
On some occasions, we may have told the accused or their solicitor that the accused will not be prosecuted. If that is the case, we cannot prosecute the accused for that matter and so the decision cannot be reviewed.
When should I apply for a review?
As soon as possible. Try to get in touch within one month of learning our decision. The later you request a review, the harder it may be to take or prevent action.
If you hear nothing about your case within three months of reporting it to the police, you can contact us to ask for information.
To start a review, download and fill in the Victims' Right to Review application form. Be sure to complete as many sections as you can.
A large print version of the application form is also available.
Send your completed form in to:
Send your form to RIU@copfs.gov.uk
Right to Review
Response and Information Unit
25 Chambers St
Help with your application
Victim Support Scotland can offer help completing the form.
How are review decisions made?
Your case will be looked at by a lawyer who was not involved in the original decision. We call this person the Reviewer.
The Reviewer will decide if the original decision was reasonable. They will take into account:
- all the circumstances
- our prosecution policies and the Prosecution Code
How long will it take?
We aim to tell you the review decision within 20 working days. Some complex cases take longer. If we need more time, we will write to you within 20 working days with an estimate of how much longer it will take.
What will the outcome of the review be?
We will write to you to with the reviewer's decision and how they came to it. The reviewer will look at the original decision and decide whether the decision was reasonable.
If your review is successful
The reviewer may decide that the case should have been prosecuted, or that the prosecution should not have been stopped.
If this happens, we will tell you whether the case will now be prosecuted. If a prosecution is possible, we will start court proceedings as soon as possible.
Sometimes a prosecution may no longer be possible. Time limits or other legal reasons sometimes prevent reviewed cases from going to court.
If your review is unsuccessful
The reviewer may decide that the original decision was reasonable.
This means they agree with the original decision. If this happens, you will not be able to appeal or ask for another review. You can still make a complaint about the handling of the review.
Complaints must be made within six months of us letting you know the outcome.
Find out more about in this document.