Going to court to give evidence as a victim or witness

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1. Before the trial

If you’re a victim of crime or a witness for the prosecution, a ‘witness care officer’ will tell you which court to go to, and when to go there.

If you’re a witness for the defence, the defence lawyer will tell you when you have to go to court.

You’ll usually be given a fixed date to go to court.

Sometimes you’ll be given a 2 to 4 week period that you’ll need to keep free - this is known as a ‘warned period’ or ‘floating trial’. If this happens, you’ll be given 1 working day’s notice before you are due to go to court.

You must tell your witness care officer or the defence lawyer straight away if you cannot make the date of the trial.

Help getting to the court

You’re a victim or prosecution witness

Ask the witness care officer for help if you cannot easily travel to court. They might be able to provide transport.

You might be able to give evidence through a video link if you live far away from the court, or find it very difficult to get there. Ask your witness care officer if this is available.

You’re a defence witness

Speak to the defence lawyer if you need help with getting to court.

You might be able to give evidence through a video link if you live far away from the court, or find it very difficult to get there. Ask the defence lawyer if this is possible.

Help in the courtroom if you have a disability

Check which facilities are available in the court you’re going to.

If you might need extra help, speak to:

  • your witness care officer, if you’re a victim or prosecution witness
  • the defence lawyer, if you’re a defence witness

They should make sure you have the support you need, for example:

  • ramps or access to accessible toilets
  • a hearing loop
  • a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter
  • forms in large print
  • guidance in audio or easy read formats

Translators

If you do not understand English, you can usually get someone to translate or interpret the trial for free. Ask the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to arrange a translator if you’re a victim or prosecution witness.

If you’re a defence witness, ask the defence lawyer if you can get a translator.

Help preparing to give evidence

You can get help to prepare for the trial, either as a victim or as a witness.

If you live in London, contact Victim Support.

If you live outside of London, contact the Citizens Advice Witness Service.

You can also ask to be referred to these organisations by:

  • your witness care officer, if you’re a victim or prosecution witness
  • the defence lawyer, if you’re a defence witness

These organisations can:

  • show you around the court so you know what to expect on the day (sometimes called a pre-trial visit)
  • explain the court process and who’s who in the courtroom
  • come to your home or anywhere you feel safe to answer your questions

On the day of the trial, you’ll be offered support from the Citizens Advice Witness Service, even if Victim Support helped you before the trial.

2. Your statement

If you’re a victim or prosecution witness, you can ask the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to see your statement again before you go to court to refresh your memory.

You can add things to your statement if you remember them later on, but you cannot withdraw it.

You’re a victim of crime

As well as the statement you gave the police when you reported the crime, you can also make a ‘victim personal statement’ (sometimes known as an ‘impact statement’). This can be read out in court.

You can include information about how the crime has affected you:

  • physically
  • mentally
  • emotionally
  • financially

You can also mention any worries you have about the defendant being released on bail.

When you give your victim personal statement to the police, tell them if you’d prefer to read it out in court yourself, or have someone else to do it for you.

The court will decide if your statement will be read out in part or in full.

3. Extra support in the courtroom

The court may be able to take extra steps to protect you if you:

  • are under 18
  • have a mental or physical disability
  • are afraid to give evidence
  • are a victim of a sexual offence
  • are a victim of other serious crimes, such as domestic violence or attempted murder

These steps are called ‘special measures’ and include:

  • screens, so the defendant cannot see you
  • giving evidence by video link from somewhere else (the defendant will be able to see you)
  • asking the public to leave the courtroom when you give evidence, if the case is about a sexual offence
  • recording your evidence in front of a camera before the trial
  • having someone explain the questions and help you reply to the court (an ‘intermediary’)
  • providing communication aids for you or others to use, such as symbols or alphabet boards
  • having members of the court not wear their formal wigs and gowns to make you feel more at ease

How to get extra support

If you’re the victim or a prosecution witness, speak to your witness care officer or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

If you’re a defence witness, speak to the defence lawyer.

The trial judge will then decide what support will be made available to you.

4. The day of the trial

When you arrive at the court, you’ll need to go through security. Tell the security staff who you are and that you’re a witness or victim. Someone from the Citizens Advice Witness Service will take you to a waiting area if they are available.

Waiting to give evidence

If you’re a victim or prosecution witness, there will usually be a separate room where you can wait so you do not meet the defendant or their family and friends.

If there is not a separate area, speak to court staff - they can make sure you’re safe.

If anyone tries to intimidate you, tell the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), your solicitor or the court staff - they’ll report it to the police.

You might have to wait a long time before you’re asked to go into the courtroom to give evidence. You might not even have to go in at all, for example if the defendant changes their plea to guilty.

Childcare

If you bring a child with you, make sure you also bring someone who can take care of them when you’re in the courtroom.

Help and support on the day

Someone from the Citizens Advice Witness Service will be at the court, and can:

  • go with you when you give evidence
  • support you on the day the verdict and sentence are decided if you’re in court
  • listen to your concerns in private (but they cannot discuss details of the case)

You’ll also have someone who will translate or interpret the trial if you arranged it beforehand.

Young witnesses (under 18)

Talk to the police or child witness care officer if you have concerns about your child. For example, if they’ll need to take breaks or need any help giving evidence.

Read the full guidance on how to prepare your child for court and special measures that are available.

Young witnesses can get support and find out what to expect at court from:

After you give evidence

Citizens Advice have more information about what happens after you’ve given evidence.

5. Expenses for going to court

You can ask for expenses when you go to court as a:

  • prosecution witness - from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • defence witness - from the defence lawyer

Your employer does not have to pay you for your time off work.

Ask the Citizens Advice Witness Service for help with claiming expenses.

Prosecution witnesses

You can claim for expenses from the CPS. They’ll pay for things like:

  • travelling expenses - the standard or 2nd class fare, or 25p per mile if you drive
  • meals and refreshments - £2.25 for up to 5 hours, or £4.50 for 5 to 10 hours
  • loss of earnings - £33.50 for up to 4 hours, or £67 for longer (£42.95 or £85.90 if you’re self-employed)
  • childcare - up to £67 per day

If you’re not sent an expenses form before the trial, ask for one from a court usher or someone from the Citizens Advice Witness Service.

Defence witnesses

If the court usher does not give you an expenses form, ask the court or the defence lawyer if you’re able to claim expenses for your time in court.