Defendants as victims: a scoping review of vulnerability, victimhood and safeguards from charge to conviction

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details


The project will explore how vulnerability and victimisation can affect a suspect or defendant’s ability to mount an adequate defence, and how the criminal justice process may exacerbate existing vulnerabilities or result in re-victimisation. Examples of defendants who are also victims include victims of domestic abuse who kill their abusers, and those engaged in criminal conduct who are victims of modern slavery or other forms of exploitation.

This scoping project will review relevant law, policy and empirical research and will focus on criminal justice institutions beyond the police. These include the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, and HM Prison and Probation Service. It will consider how these institutions define ‘victimhood’ and evaluate the safeguards in place for defendants who are also victims, or who are otherwise vulnerable.

One output from this project will be a scoping paper submitted to the Law Commission of England and Wales. The paper will consider whether and, if so, how a future Law Commission project might review the way the law should treat defendants who are also victims of crime. The team are grateful for the Commission’s interest in the work, which has included comments on the research questions and design for the scoping paper. The paper will feed into the Commission’s work as it considers its forthcoming programme of law reform.

More broadly, the project aims to contribute to current socio-legal and criminological debates on vulnerability, victimhood, and criminal suspects or defendants.

This research is funded by the University of York and expands on the Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre’s existing work.
Effective start/end date2/10/231/10/24


  • K Law (General)
  • criminal law
  • criminal justice
  • criminology
  • vulnerability
  • victims
  • defendants