FAQs - Going to court


Questions

  1. How will I be contacted by my witness care officer?
  2. On my statement I said I was willing to go to court. I have now changed my mind and don’t want to assist. Who should I tell?
  3. Do I have to go to court or can I refuse?
  4. Why can’t my statement just be read out – why do I have to attend in person?
  5. I feel I am a vulnerable person. I am extremely worried about giving evidence. What can I do about this?
  6. I feel that I have been subject to victim/witness intimidation due to my involvement in this case. What should I do?
  7. I have been told that between now and the time of the trial, the defendant has been given bail conditions to abide by. I know that he/she has broken these conditions – what should I do?
  8. I have never been to court before and don’t know what to expect. Can I come in for a look around before the trial?
  9. Do I need a solicitor?
  10. Can I read my statement again before the trial?
  11. How long will I be needed at court?
  12. I work full time – will I be expected to take time off work to attend court?
  13. What do I need to wear?
  14. Where do I need to go when I arrive at court?
  15. Will I see the defendant at court?
  16. Can I bring a friend or family member with me?

Answers

Question 1: How will I be contacted by my witness care officer?

The witness care officer will use the details you provided when you made a statement to contact you. You are able to specify whether or not you want to be called or written to. Your witness care officer will contact you right at the start of when a case enters the court process and then keep you updated regularly until its conclusion.

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Question 2: On my statement I said I was willing to go to court. I have now changed my mind and don’t want to assist. Who should I tell?

Let your witness care officer know as soon as possible and tell them the reasons you do not want to go to court. They can then take your concerns to the officer in charge of the case and/or the Crown Prosecution Service. Dependant on your reasons for not wanting to/not being able to attend you may be excused. If you do not have a good reason then you may still be asked to attend (see Q4).

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Question 3: Do I have to go to court or can I refuse?

If you have given a statement and are then asked to go to court then you must do so. If you have any problems or concerns about going to court you must let your witness care officer know as soon as possible. If you have to go to court but the court does not feel you will attend voluntarily, they may issue a witness summons against you. This will then mean that if you fail to attend court without good reason, the court could find you ‘in contempt of court’ and may issue a warrant for your arrest.

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Question 4: Why can’t my statement just be read out – why do I have to attend in person?

Between the defence and the prosecution a decision is made to call you to court in person dependant on the evidence you have to offer. If there is anything contentious in your statement or of high evidential value you will be asked to attend. This is because either defence or prosecution (or both) may have questions for you about what you have said in your statement. They can only ask you these questions in court during the trial. You may feel that you have very little to offer the case, however please be assured that the decision to call you to court is a carefully made one and you would not be asked to attend if your evidence wasn’t important in some way to the case.

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Question 5: I feel I am a vulnerable person. I am extremely worried about giving evidence. What can I do about this?

Let your witness care officer know as soon as possible and tell them your reasons. The witness care officer will be able to advise you if you are eligible for any special measures which could make giving evidence an easier experience for you.

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Question 6: I feel that I have been subject to victim/witness intimidation due to my involvement in this case. What should I do?

Let your witness care officer know as soon as possible and tell what has happened. However if you feel you are in any immediate danger or fear for your safety, please dial 999 to report this, (if the situation has passed, then you can also dial our non-emergency number which is 101.) Your witness care officer can make sure that the police officer dealing with your case is aware that you are being intimidated and he/she will follow this up. The witness care officer will also be able to advise you if you are eligible for any special measures which could make giving evidence an easier experience for you.

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Question 7: I have been told that between now and the time of the trial, the defendant has been given bail conditions to abide by. I know that he/she has broken these conditions – what should I do?

Let your witness care officer know as soon as possible and tell them why you think the conditions have been broken. Your witness care officer can make sure that the police officer dealing with your case is aware that this has been happened and will follow this up. However, if you feel you are in any immediate danger or fear for your safety, please dial 999 to report this as a ‘breach of bail’. If the situation has passed, then you can also dial our non-emergency number which is 101.

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Question 8: I have never been to court before and don’t know what to expect. Can I come in for a look around before the trial?

Yes. Let you witness care officer know and they will arrange a pre-trial visit for you.

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Question 9: Do I need a solicitor?

If you are a victim or witness of a crime you do not need a solicitor. A solicitor from the Crown Prosecution Service will be prosecuting on the day. This is because trials which take place in a magistrates’ or Crown Court are public prosecutions, not private.

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Question 10: Can I read my statement again before the trial?

Yes, a copy of your statement will be given to you when you arrive at the Witness Service’s waiting room. It cannot be posted out to you before then.

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Question 11: How long will I be needed at court?

It is not possible to say exactly how long you will be needed at court, however it is  best not to make any plans for later in the day. Usually you are not expected to remain at court after you have given your evidence. The prosecutor will let you know if you can leave.

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Question 12: I work full time – will I be expected to take time off work to attend court?

Trials only run on week days and so if you work full time you will be expected to take time off work to attend. If you need us to your witness care officer is able to write to your employer to let them know you need the time off. It is up to your employer whether or not they still pay you for the time you are absent from work. If you have a loss of earnings due to attending court, you can make an expenses claim.

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Question 13: What do I need to wear?

There is no dress code - it is up to you what you wear. Most people choose to dress smart-casual.

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Question 14: Where do I need to go when I arrive at court?

Before you attend court your witness care officer will contact you to complete a needs assessment. They will run through with you where you need to go on the day. Generally, most people report to reception/security and are then directed to the Witness Service’s waiting room.

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Question 15: Will I see the defendant at court?

If you choose to wait in the Witness Service’s waiting room, the defendant will not be sat in this room. However, should you wish to wait in a communal area, you may see the defendant waiting there too. The defendant will of course be present in the courtroom during the trial.

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Question 16: Can I bring a friend or family member with me?

Yes, you can bring someone with you for support on the day. They will be able to wait in the Witness Service’s waiting room with you and if you would like them to, they can sit at the back of the courtroom in the public gallery whilst you are giving your evidence. (Please note: there is no public gallery in a youth court).

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