We appreciate that you may well have a number of questions. Below is a list of some frequently asked questions, which you may find useful.
Why am I needed as a witness?
A witness is someone who makes a statement to the police. Anyone who makes a statement may at some point be asked to attend court to give evidence, there could be points in your statement that the defence or prosecution wish you to clarify in open court. You will be advised by your Witness Care Officer should your attendance at court be required.
Can I chose how and when I am contacted?
Yes. The default means of contact is by phone, but if a victim or witness of crime prefers another form of contact (e.g. letter, e-mail, or even text) arrangements can easily be made.
Will I be kept up-to-date with the progress of my case?
Yes, certainly. Every Witness Care Unit has a duty to maintain regular contact with victims and witnesses to keep them updated on the progress of their case, including the outcome and any sentence given to the defendant if convicted. This is explained using plain language that can be understood easily.
Will the Witness Care Unit be able to help with practical needs and support required?
Yes. The Witness Care Unit will be able to advise you on a range of practical considerations, such as:
- Pre court visits
- Support Group requirements
- Child care issues
- Court day expectations
- Interpreters for language difficulties
- Medical issues
Questions relating to the court process:
What time does the court open?
Crown Court is open to the public from 9am until 5pm each weekday but court normally starts at 10.30am. Magistrate Court buildings are usually open half an hour before the first hearing starts each day.
What if I have no transport?
You should advise a member of the Witness Care Unit at the earliest opportunity if you have any problems about getting to the court location for the trial. They will be able to assist in the making of travel arrangements, which may include rail travel. However you travel to court you can claim expenses back after you have given your evidence.
What happens when I get to court?
When you arrive at court you should report to the Witness Suite advising them which case you are due to give evidence in. You will then be directed to the Witness Service room where volunteers will be on hand to offer you practical and emotional support about the proceedings. The Witness Service volunteers will also offer you a chance to view the courtroom prior to the start of the trial.
Can I have a copy of my statement before or on the day of the trial?
A Witness Service volunteer will provide you with a copy of your statement when you arrive at court for the trial.
What are special measures?
These are options that the court can allow to enable a Victim or Witness to give the best evidence they can at court. Special Measures apply to Victims and Witnesses who are ‘Vulnerable or intimidated’ persons. The options are as follows:
- Video taping rather than making a statement
- Using a video link to the courtroom rather than giving evidence in the courtroom itself
- Video taping cross-examination by defence
- Using screens in court, so that the defendant can't see you but can hear you
- Clearing the public gallery to remove intimidation
- Court officials removing their wigs and gowns (Crown Court only)
- Using ‘intermediaries’ where a person cannot communicate in ordinary language
- Using aids to communicate
- A victim or witness may qualify for, (or require), one or more Special Measures. Special Measures are not available to all categories of person in all cases
Will I see the defendant?
While waiting to give evidence you will be able to sit in a separate waiting room. However, you will be giving your evidence in open court and so you will be able to see the defendant unless you have been granted certain special measures.
What do I need to wear to attend court?
There is no dress code for court; it is at your own discretion.
How long will I be at court for?
Unfortunately we cannot say how long your evidence will take, although the court will try to keep your attendance to a minimum. Once you have given your evidence you will be released from the court. Light refreshments are available to purchase within the court building, however you may bring your own if you want to.
Who will be with me at court? Do I need a solicitor?
If you are attending court to give evidence you will not need a solicitor. You may bring someone with you to court if you wish and the Witness Service will assist you once at court.
What support will there be at court for me?
A Witness Service volunteer will be there when you arrive at court. You will also be able to sit and wait in the waiting room provided. The Witness Service volunteers are there to provide emotional and practical support during the trial.
Can I bring anyone with me?
If you have been granted Special Measures or are under 18 then you can bring someone with you for support. You can also bring anyone with you to court under any other circumstances but they may not always be able to claim expenses for attending with you so please bear this in mind.
Will my Religious beliefs be taken into consideration?
The Usher or Witness Service volunteer will ask you prior to giving evidence which religious book you would like to swear on or whether you wish to affirm (to affirm - to swear in the court room to tell the truth but not on any religious book).
How do I claim expenses?
An expenses claim form will be provided to you at court, which you should complete and return in a pre paid envelope together with receipts. You will normally be paid by cheque within 10 working days. Any queries regarding expenses are dealt with by the CPS at Wakefield. Their telephone number is 01924 205200.
Do the courts cater for witnesses with a disability?
The court buildings have access for disabled people; for example lifts, ramps to entrances and toilets, hearing loops and disabled parking. In the court itself the witness stand can be made accessible as required. However, we do request that you advise your Witness Care Officer prior to attending court so arrangements can be put in place.
What if I need an Interpreter?
If you have to attend court and English is not your first language we will arrange for an Interpreter to attend court to assist you giving evidence. You do not have to worry about arranging this as somebody at the Witness Care Unit will do this on your behalf.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
No, unless you have been specifically asked to bring something by either the Officer in the Case or your Witness Care Officer for the hearing. You may want to bring a book or something else to read, as we do not know how long you will be at court. If you are attending with your child, bringing something to keep them entertained is always a good idea.
How do I find out the result of the court case?
Your Witness Care Officer will update you with the result following the conclusion of the case.
Can I stay for the rest of the trial after giving evidence?
Should you wish to stay, it will be at your own expense. You will also need to liaise with the Usher or Witness Service volunteer, who will advise you where to go to watch the remainder of the trial.
What happens when it's all over, am I left to deal with how I feel without any further support?
No. Your Witness Care Officer can put you in touch with an appropriate Support Group. They will be able to help with any emotional or physiological needs you may have.
If the defendant goes to prison for more than one year, if convicted of a violent or sexual offence, can I be kept up to date if they are released or are appearing before the parole board?
Yes. This is done via the Probation Service, through a Victim Liaison Officer. Your Witness Care Officer will ask you if you want to be updated regarding any changes. If you do a Victim Liaison Officer will contact you and explain how this is done. It is very important you agree to participate in this scheme, as this means your feelings will be considered by the Parole Board when they make their decision. If you say "no" you will not be updated.