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When a Crime is Committed

Following an incident, reporting a crime to the police is the first step in a victim's or witness's involvement in the criminal justice system. The police then conduct an investigation of the matter by gathering evidence, including witness statements, and this can sometimes be a lengthy process.

Giving a statement to the police

A statement is usually a written or typed record, in your own words, of what happened sometimes it may be recorded on audio tape. If the victim or witness is a child, police may video tape their statement. The statement will usually include information about what happened before, during and after the crime and this will be used as the basis if the case against the accused offender if the matter goes to Court. The statement is a Statutory Declaration so the information included in it must be the truth about the matter.

If after the witness has given a statement they remember something more they forgot to include, they should call the police officer in charge of the case to advise them about it. The police may ask the witness to make a second statement so that information is included.

The police officer in charge of the case will be the main contact for the victim and should keep the victim informed about the progress of the matter. If the victim or witness wants to have a support person or an interpreter with them while they make their statement, this can be arranged.

Identifying the alleged offender

The victim may know who committed the crime against them and can provide their name. If they do not know them, the police may use other types of evidence such as fingerprints, CCTV or DNA to identify them. In some cases, the victim or witness may be asked to identify the alleged offender from an identity parade or a photo board which include a range of people matching the description of the alleged offender for a witness to say if any of them are the person they saw commit the crime. This process will also form part of the evidence for the case.

Interviewing the alleged offender

When the police identify someone as a "person of interest" for having committed the crime they will interview them about the matter. That person has the right to seek independent legal advice and decline to be interviewed. If they are interviewed, which is usually recorded, and are charged with the crime, this is referred to in Court as their Record of Interview.

Alternatives to arrest and court for young offenders

Where the alleged offender is a juvenile (under 18) and is prepared to admit to the crime, the police may decide to deal with them in some way other than sending them to Court. This is referred to as Youth Diversion. The types of options that can be used are:

  • verbal and written warnings
  • family conferences/formal cautions
  • victim-offender conferencing
  • formal or informal community-based programs (including life skills and alcohol, drug and substance abuse programs)

The police should inform the victim if they decide to divert an offender. If the offender does not participate in the agreed Youth Diversion program, they may still be charged and the matter will proceed to Court.

A Charge is Laid.