Witness information

Going to court as a witness

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is responsible for running all of the Courts.

The  ‘Going to Court – A Step by Step Guide to Being a Witness’ DVD which explains what happens at court.

Advice for Victims and witnesses attending court

The Witness Service, run by Victim Support, helps victims and witnesses attending court. They are trained staff and volunteers who you can talk to about what to expect before going to court during a pre-trial visit, and who are also present to support you at court. Please note, the Witness Service cannot discuss the case or the contents of your evidence with you. To find out more, visit: www.victimsupport.org.uk or call 0845 303 0900.

Witness Care Unit

The joint police/Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) Witness Care Unit will provide you with a single point of contact after the point of charge about the progress of your case, including the date of hearing. They can also give information on claiming expenses for attending court, including travel, pre-trial visits, allowances for meals, loss of wages and child care.

Under the Code of Practice for Victims Of Crime, which came into force on 3 April 2006, the Witness Care Unit has a legal obligation to:

  • tell you if you will be required to give evidence
  • tell you the dates of the court hearings
  • give you a copy of the 'Witness in court' leaflet or other relevant leaflet, if you are required to give evidence
  • tell you about court results and explain any sentence given within one day of receiving the outcome from the court. 

Find out more about witness care units

An additional website that may be helpful to witnesses is: http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk

Protection against harassment or intimidation

If you are harassed or threatened in any way during an investigation or a trial, you should contact the police immediately. If the offender is remanded in custody, released on bail or convicted, the criminal court can make a restraining order. Victims and witnesses are also protected against witness intimidation for up to a year after the conclusion of a trial.

Vulnerable/Intimidated Victims and Witnesses

Victims who feel intimidated or vulnerable because, for example, they are young or disabled may require help providing evidence. In these cases, witnesses may be entitled to ‘special measures’ at court to assist them give their best evidence. Special measures are provided at the discretion of the Judge or Magistrate. Special measures may include a live link to the court room, so the witness does not have to give evidence in the court room, the use of screens inside the court room so the witness cannot see the defendant when giving evidence, visually recorded evidence in chief, the removal of wigs and gowns, or video recorded cross-examination. Other measures are available to assist witnesses with communication difficulties to allow them to give their best evidence, such as the use of an intermediary who will explain the questions put to them and help the court understand their answers.

Conviction, sentence and parole

  • When someone is convicted of an offence and sent to prison, they pass into the care of the Prison Service. To find out more about the Prison Service, visit here.
  • If the offender in your case was under 18, you may be contacted by the Youth Offender Team (YOT) to see if you want to be involved in a restorative justice intervention.
  • If the offender in your case was convicted of a sexual or violent offence and sentenced to a year or more in prison, including offenders being treated by mental heath service, the Probation Service will keep you informed about key points in the offender’s sentence. You can find out more about Prison and Probation on the Direct.gov website.
  • In some cases, the Parole Board decide when offenders can safely be released from prison into the community. To find out more, visit www.paroleboard.gov.uk          

Further information

You can find more detailed information about support and services for victims and witnesses at www.gov.uk

Citizens Advice - They can help with financial problems or advice, legal issues or other practical problems. To find out more, visit: www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call 0845 126 4264

The Witness Charter

The Witness Charter sets out, from the Criminal Justice System, the standards of care you can expect if you are a witness to a crime or incident in England and Wales. This charter applies to all witnesses of a crime and character witnesses but not expert witnesses.