What happens after I contact the police?

When you contact the police, you’re starting a process that may lead to a trial in court and your abuser being convicted of a crime.

Before you get that far – and some cases don’t – there are a number of stages you may have to go through, depending on the nature of your situation.

Here you’ll find out about some of the things that might happen after you report abuse to the police and where you can get more information if you need it.

Initial report

The police will ask you what happened, who was involved and get your details for an initial report.

You’ll get a crime reference number. Make a note of the number so it’s easier for them to find your case in future.

Witness statement

The police may then take a formal statement from you, either by video recording or in writing. Usually this is done by an officer specifically trained in dealing with domestic abuse.

Tell the police if you need extra support to make a statement, such as an interpreter or language therapist.


The police may arrest the suspect for questioning or ask them to come to the police station for an interview.

After an arrest, the police must release the suspect within 24 hours or charge them with a crime; they can apply for more time in serious cases.

Sometimes the police will want to carry out an investigation before deciding to make an arrest or to bring charges.

Pre-charge bail

The police can release the suspect on pre-charge bail while they investigate.

Bail usually comes with conditions, especially if the police think the suspect may try to harm or intimidate you. The conditions may be that the suspect:

  • cannot contact you
  • cannot live at a certain address
  • must not go to certain places
  • must return to the police station on a given date

You can always tell the police officer working on your case about any concerns you have for your safety if the abuser is released. It may help them make the right decisions about bail conditions for your protection.

Pre-charge bail lasts for 28 days but can be extended by the police or a magistrates’ court.

If conditions of bail are broken, the abuser can be arrested and taken into police custody.

Released under investigation

Sometimes the police may release the suspect without bail while they investigate the matter further. This is called being released under investigation (RUI).

Although the release is without conditions, the police will tell the suspect that any unnecessary or inappropriate contact with you may be a criminal offence.

For example, if you report such contact, the suspect could be prosecuted for witness intimidation, harassment or perverting the course of justice.

If you are concerned for your safety, you or your support worker should explain the situation to the police as soon as possible. For more information, see Staying safe while the police investigate.

The police should keep you informed about how the investigation is coming along.


If the police need more information to make a case, they can investigate further. They may gather evidence including:

  • phone and computer records
  • CCTV footage
  • photos of injuries
  • medical records
  • interviews with witnesses

The police should be aware of any danger to you caused by seeking sensitive information and should try to find evidence from other sources too.

The police may ask to see certain parts of your medical records if they think they could be important for the case. You don’t have to agree, but the police or the suspect’s legal team can apply to the court to get them. You can object to this. You may want legal advice to help you consider your options.

In cases involving sexual violence, the police may take you to a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) or a specially trained doctor (called a forensic medical examiner or FME), where you can get medical treatment and a forensic medical examination.

The examination looks for evidence that the police can use in a criminal investigation or trial. This might include gathering traces of skin, hair, or bodily fluids and examining any injuries you might have.

You can also go to a SARC independently, without going to the police, or get treatment from your GP or hospital. You don’t have to pass this information and evidence on to the police if you don’t want to. The SARC can store it for you while you make up your mind.

The police may decide to charge the abuser with a crime, or pass all the information on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to assess.

To prosecute the suspect, the police or CPS must think there’s a realistic chance of getting a conviction – a guilty verdict in court – and that it’s worthwhile to do so (known as ‘being in the public interest’).


The police or CPS may charge the suspect with a crime, such as assault, coercive control, harassment, a sexual offence, criminal damage or threatening behaviour. There’s no specific offence of ‘domestic abuse’.

At this point the suspect will be called the defendant.

Custody or post-charge bail

After being charged, the defendant will either be held at a police station until the next available court session (called being remanded in custody), or released on bail until their date in court.

Bail can come with conditions (such as those for pre-charge bail, as well as polygraph, or lie detector, testing), and if they are broken, the defendant may be arrested and taken into custody.

No further action – no charges made

If the suspect isn’t charged, the case may be closed and the police will take ‘no further action’. They should keep records of what’s happened in case you need to report abuse again in the future.

You may be able to ask the police or the CPS to review its decision if you’re unhappy with it, using the Victim’s Right to Review Scheme.

Get information on the Victim’s Right to Review Scheme (Rights of Women)