After you’ve reported a crime, the police will decide if they can investigate the case.
How long a police investigation takes
Investigations can take a long time and some crimes are never solved.
Find out how long the average criminal case takes.
Keeping you informed
The police will keep you up to date at important points in the investigation. You can agree with the investigating officer how often you would like to hear from them.
Extra help if you need it
The police will decide if you need any special help through the investigation. They may ask victim services to have this conversation with you.
The police might give some information about the crime to news reporters to help with the investigation. They’ll normally ask your permission before they do this.
If you’ve been the victim of a sexual offence like assault or rape, it’s against the law for anyone to publish your name, photo or anything else that could identify you.
The outcome of the investigation
The police will let you know within 5 working days of the suspect being:
- released without charge
- released on bail
- given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice
You will get this information within 1 working day if you've been the victim of a serious crime, have been repeatedly targeted, or are intimidated or vulnerable, eg aged under 18.
If a suspect is released without charge or given a caution, reprimand, final warning or penalty notice, your case won't go to court.
You can still get support if you need it. Enter your postcode in the box at the bottom of this page to find help where you live.
The decision to take a case to court
When the police finish their investigation they may pass the information to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The police or CPS will decide whether to take the case to court.
If they later decide to drop or alter your case, you should be told the reasons why within 5 working days.
If you’re unhappy with a decision made by the CPS you can ask for it to be reviewed through the Victims’ Right to Review scheme.
Will you have to go to court?
Your case won’t go to trial if the defendant pleads guilty at their court hearing.
If the defendant pleads not guilty and you witnessed the crime, you are likely to be called to give evidence. You can ask for extra help in court to give the best evidence.
Find out more about how courts work.