If you’ve been told that you might have to go to court as a witness, this is because you could be needed to ‘give evidence’ at a trial.
When you give evidence, you tell the court about something you ‘witnessed’ (saw or heard), which is connected with the case. You might have seen a crime take place or something else related to it.
Why you give evidence in court
You could give evidence in a criminal court if:
- You’re the victim of a crime, in which case you’ll automatically be a witness for the prosecution
- You witnessed a crime, in which case you could be a witness for the prosecution or a witness for the defence, depending on your version of events
- You know someone who has been accused of a crime and believe they acted ‘out of character’, in which case you’ll probably be a witness for the defence
The Witness Charter
The Witness Charter sets out the standards of care you can expect if you are a witness to a crime or incident in England and Wales. Take a look at the Witness Charter.
The video below has been produced by the Ministry of Justice. It provides a step by step guide to going to court as a witness, explaining what will happen.
Going to court can be intimidating.
If you are called as a witness to give evidence in a criminal court case, you can get free, practical, emotional support and information from the Citizens Advice Witness Service.
Using fully trained volunteers and experienced paid staff, the Citizens Advice court-based witness service provides support and information to witnesses who are called to give evidence at every criminal court in England and Wales. The service is available to all witnesses to help them to give their best evidence throughout the duration of their contribution to a trial.
Any witness giving evidence in a criminal court in England and Wales will be able to get support from the Witness service, along with their families and supporters.
The service can you provide you with help on:
- who should keep you updated if you are called as a witness;
- if you've been sent a witness warning letter or summons;
- getting help and support;
- arrangements for appearing as a witness.
What to expect
If you are referred to this service, before the day of the trial or hearing, you will be:
- Contacted by staff or volunteers from the witness service
- Have the service and the support they can offer explained
- Offered a pre-trial visit to take place more than 10 days in advance of the trial
On the day of the trial or hearing
You will be offered
- Emotional and practical support to every witness if you wish to receive it
- Be offered information and support by staff and volunteers
- Be offered the chance to familiarise yourself with the court room
- Receive an explanation of court proceedings
- Receive regular updates on the progress of yourr trial, either relating to the administrative progress of the trial, or by updates from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), defence solicitors or HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) where appropriate
- Upon request, you may be accompanied
- You may be able to request Special Measures
- Receive referrals to other locally and nationally commissioned services if you have ongoing needs.
Supporting vulnerable and intimidated witnesses
Additional support will also be provided to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses including:
- Accompanying you in the TV link room (if Special Measures have been granted, and if requested)
- Providing age appropriate explanations about court proceedings for young witnesses,taking into account their individual needs
- Providing enhanced pre-trial visits
- Providing a Young Witness Pack to young witnesses and support them in understanding it if necessary.
After the trial or hearing
You will be given
- Practical and emotional support
- An explanation about the outcome of the trial or an update on proceedings from the appropriate person if necessary
- Information about other locally and nationally commissioned services if you have further needs.
Find out more about Citizen Advice's Witness Service or make contact directly using their local telephone number 0300 3321257.
Alternatively, find out more about Merseyside Police Witness Care Unit.