What You can Expect as a Witness
If you have provided a statement for the prosecution or for the defence you may be called to court to give evidence at the defendant’s trial.
Is there help available for me?
The Witness Service provide assistance for any witness who has to attend court. This support can be both practical and emotional.
They can provide information about the court process, show you the courtroom prior to the trial and assist with any expenses claim.
If you are a prosecution witness the Crown Prosecution Service witness support unit will be in touch with you and will provide contact details for witness support. If you are a defence witness the solicitor representing the defendant can provide you with support and also provide the contact details for the local witness service.
What happens at court?
When you attend court, you can sit in a separate witness room rather than the general waiting area if you wish. You will be spoken to by the prosecution or defence lawyer, as appropriate, before the trial starts.
Will I be told what to say?
Whilst the lawyer will be able to provide you with information on trial procedure, layout of the court and the roles of those involved they cannot “coach” you on your evidence. There are very strict rules about training witnesses because this could have a potentially negative effect on the proceedings.
Can I read my statement?
You will be provided with a copy of your statement prior to the trial so that you can read through it before you give evidence. In some cases you may be allowed to refresh your memory from the statement when giving evidence – if you are struggling the advocate will see this and take any necessary steps to ensure you are able to give the evidence you wish to give.
Can I speak to the other witnesses?
If there are a number of witnesses, you will not be allowed to communicate with anyone who has given evidence while you are still waiting to do so.
If you are a defence witness, you should also not discuss anything about the trial with the defendant once the trial hearing has started. The prosecution or defence lawyer are not allowed to discuss any evidence that has been given with you before you give your evidence.
What happens in court?
You will be called into court at the appropriate time and asked to swear on a holy book or affirm that you will tell the truth. You will then be asked questions by the prosecutor first if you are a prosecution witness and then by the defendant’s representative, or vice versa if you are a defence witness.
If the defendant is not represented, you may be asked questions by a court appointed lawyer in his place if the court do not feel it is appropriate for him to ask you questions directly.
Once you have finished giving evidence you may be released from court or you can stay in the public gallery to watch the remainder of the trial.
I’m really worried, do I have to go?
If you think that you would benefit from “special measures” such as screening from the defendant or giving evidence from remote video link you should contact the prosecution, defence solicitor or court as appropriate.
A witness summons can be issued if the court is aware you do not want to go, this is something that you should speak to a solicitor about.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819