If you have been the victim or witness of a crime, you may be requested to attend court to give evidence.
If someone accused of a crime (known as the defendant) pleads not guilty, then a trial will take place. You may be asked to attend and give evidence.
The Witness Care Officer will guide you through the process, help you to give your best evidence and help with practical things, such as:
- Arranging travel and accommodation, letting you know where and when the trial will happen
- Claiming expenses
- Arranging for you to visit the Court in advance to see how things work
- Supporting you at Court on the day of the trial
- Help you get to the trial and give evidence, eg by arranging child care or transport
Understanding what might happen
If you're the close relative of someone killed as a result of a crime, you should be able to meet the CPS prosecutor and find out what might happen at the trial. You may also be able to meet them if you're going to court as a witness.
If you've given a statement, you'll be able to see it again before you give evidence, so you can remember what you said.
You can find more more out about the court process by watching a number of short videos produced by the Ministry of Justice which outlined the process and what to expect. Please use think link to take a look at a series of 'going to court' videos produced by the Ministry of Justice.
Giving you support to give evidence
If you’re going to be a witness in court the judge or magistrates might grant you extra help to give evidence. These Special Measures are normally arranged for witnesses who:
- are intimidated or vulnerable, e.g. under 18;
- have experienced a serious crime;
Special Measures can include:
- putting screens or curtains around you in the courtroom so you can’t see the suspect;
- giving your evidence by live video link, so you don’t have to sit in the courtroom;
- getting the judge and lawyers to take off their wigs and gowns;
- having your statement recorded on video to be played to the courtroom;
- asking the public to leave the courtroom while you give evidence;
- getting specialist help to understand questions and communicate answers through Registered Intermediaries.
Speak with your officer in the case, your Witness Care Officer or other point of contact for more information. The police and Crown Prosecution Service will apply for any special measures on your behalf but the Court will make the final decision about whether the special measures that have been requested can be used.
If you're particularly worried or afraid, you can also ask the investigating police officer or Witness Care Unit (WCU) for extra help.
You can also get additional emotional and practical support from the Witness Service. It's based at the court and works closely with the police and Witness Care Unit (WCU).
The WCU can help arrange for you to visit the court building before the trial starts.
You may also be able to sit separately and use a different door to the defendant and their supporters, where possible.
The verdict and sentencing
The WCU or the investigating officer will tell you the outcome of the trial within 1 working day of being informed by the court. If the defendant is found:
- not guilty, they will be let off the charges against them (known as 'acquitted') and will walk free from the court
- guilty, the judge or magistrates will decide on their sentence
If the WCU or officer can't answer all your questions about the sentence they should put you in touch with the CPS, who will be able to help. They may refer you to victim services for more help if you need it.
You can find more information about the court process on the Crown Prosecution Service's website.