Going to court as a witness
If you’ve witnessed a crime being committed, you may need to attend court as part for the process. This means you’ll play a role in bringing the offender to justice.
This process can be complicated and usually involves many different agencies. This is why the team at Norfolk & Suffolk Victim Care is here to help you through the experience.
If you’ve got any concerns after you’ve witnessed a crime, or have questions about what happens next, our team can help you. Whether you simply need support having seen something upsetting, or have a question about the role you’ll play as a witness, contact us whenever you’re ready.
I’ve witnessed a crime – what do I need to do?
You’ll be asked by the police to complete a witness statement if the person involved is suspected of committing a crime. If they’re charged by the police, the case will then go through the criminal justice system and you might need to go to court.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides who will need to give evidence in court, but we can provide all the assistance and support you need to help you through the process. Just bear in mind that if you are called to attend court, you’ll be legally obliged to do so.
What is special measures?
In some cases, the court may decide to put in special measures in order to ensure you can provide evidence in a way that suits you.
This can be arranged before the trial and agreed by the judge. Special measures may apply if you:
- are under 17 at the time of the court hearing;
- suffer from a physical disability;
- have mental disorder or impairment; or
- may suffer while giving evidence due to the nature of the crime.
Courts will often provide the option for screens to be placed around the witness box, too, so that you don’t have to see the defendant. Providing evidence via a TV link may also be an option for you.
What happens during the court trial?
A trial takes place when the accused pleads not guilty.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person accused committed the crime, and they’ll do this by presenting evidence during the trial.
The CPS has a big responsibility in deciding if the person(s) committed the crime, because the decision can affect the life of not just the accused, but also the people around them.
If you’re called to court as a witness, the responsibility is also significant.
If you’re called as a witness to give evidence, you may be asked to talk in public about upsetting or personal events. These could even be things you’d feel uncomfortable talking about to a friend or family member.
We can help you prepare for giving evidence to ease the process, from dealing with questions by the Crown Prosecutor to cross-examination, which can be a challenging process.
What happens once the trial has ended?
Appeals can be lodged under certain circumstances, by the defendant against the verdict or by the prosecution if the sentence is deemed not strong enough.
The conviction cannot be appealed against by the prosecution. Despite this, if fresh evidence become available after the trial, another investigation or trail may be possible.
If the offender is found guilty, the victim may be awarded compensation. If not, they may be able to apply for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.