Going To Court

If you’re a victim of a crime, or a witness to a crime in Hertfordshire, you may have to go to court to give evidence at the trial. We know how distressing this can be. At Beacon, our trained staff are here to help you before the hearing and on the day itself.

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Before the trial

When the date of the trial is set, a witness care officer will tell you when and where it will happen. Your witness care officer works for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and is assigned to look after you throughout the trial process.

You can contact the officer at any time for further information and support. This includes any help you may need with childcare and transport.

You can also visit the court before the day of the trial if you wish. You may find this helps you to feel less anxious as it’ll mean when the day of the trial arrives, you’ll be familiar with the court building. Your witness care officer will be happy to arrange a court visit for you.

If you need any special help, for example if you’re disabled and need help getting to court or moving about in the Court building, you should tell the witness care officer who will make the necessary arrangements for you.

Your Beacon contact will also be on hand to provide any help with transportation as well as advice and information. We want to ensure you feel as comfortable and confident with the process as possible, so if you have any questions you can always ask us.

 

Help with your expenses

Attending a hearing might leave you out of pocket as your employer doesn’t have to pay you for the time you’ll have to take off work. So, you may be able to claim some expenses which can include your travel to court, meals, loss of earnings and other financials such as childcare when you give evidence at a trial.

 

Making a claim

You should receive a witness expense claim form, a prepaid envelope and a list of your allowable expenses before the trial. If for any reason you haven’t received these, your solicitor or a court official should provide them for you. At Beacon, if you are eligable, we’ll help you complete and submit your expenses claim form.

Find out more about witness expenses and allowances.

 

Reviewing your statement

If you gave a statement to the police at the time of the crime, it’s possible that you may not remember it by the time of the trial. That’s no problem – you can ask the police to show it to you any time in the days and weeks before the trial.

If you’re appearing as a prosecution witness, you can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to let you see your statement.

 

At the trial

From the moment you arrive at the court, a member of the Witness Service will support you. They’ll be there for you during the whole process, whether you’re giving evidence or not.

If you want someone to go into the courtroom with you, the Witness Service will arrange this for you. They’ll also provide an interpreter if you asked for one.

Your interpreter will translate what people are saying and help you understand how the trial is going. They can’t represent you or give you any legal advice.

 

Before you’re called in

The prospect of facing the defendant as you wait to be called into the courtroom can be traumatic. For this reason, the court should give you a separate waiting room to the defendant and their family and friends.

If there isn’t a separate area, the court staff will make sure you’re safe. If anyone tries to intimidate you, tell your solicitor or the court staff. They’ll report it to the police.

 

Extra protection in the courtroom

If you’re under 18, disabled, afraid to give evidence or a victim of a sexual offence, the court can take extra steps to protect you.

They can put screens up in the courtroom to stop you seeing the defendant. Or they can arrange for you to give evidence via a live CCTV link.

If the case is about a sexual offence, the court may ask the public to leave the courtroom when you give evidence.

These measures are provided to ensure that vulnerable people are protected. If you’d like extra protection, speak to the police officer, witness care officer or the solicitor who asked you to come to court.

 

Special Measures

Most people don't see the inside of a courtroom unless they’re called as a witness or asked to sit on a jury. Courtrooms are formal places, which can make being a witness quite daunting, This is especially true for children, young witnesses and anyone being threatened. If you feel this way, the Witness Care Team can offer assitance to make you feel safe and secrue, there are a number of Special Measures that they can ask the court to grant. 

These include:

  • putting up screens that block you and the defendant from seeing each other 

  • letting you give evidence from outside the courtroom through a live video link. This takes away the stress of going to court and having to face the defendant. You’ll still be able to see and hear court proceedings while you give evidence, even though you’re not in the room. You can have someone from the witness service with you, if you wish

  • pre-recording your evidence on video  

  • asking members of the court to remove their gowns and wigs to make them look less formal

  • providing someone to help you give evidence. You may be able to use sign boards if you have difficulty speaking English

  • providing an interpreter if you don’t speak English 

 

When you can have special measures

You may be eligible for special measures if you’re a victim of a serious crime, are vulnerable or have been intimidated.

 

Witness Service

The witness service will give you free support before and during the trial. This will help to reduce stress in the period before the hearing and make you more aware of the whole process. It’s also designed to make you feel valued and respected as you prepare for what is a vital civic duty.

Run by Citizens Advice, the witness service is available to anyone called to give evidence. Every year, it helps thousands of people like you play their part in bringing criminals to justice and making us all safer.

You can call Citizens Advice on 0300 332 1000.

 

The Witness Charter

The Witness Charter tells you what to expect if you witness a crime or incident. In it, you’ll find what help and support you’ll receive at every stage of the process.

 

Your Victim Personal Statement

The Victim Personal Statement (VPS) is your opportunity to say how a crime has affected you. This could be physically, emotionally, financially or in any other way. It’s different from a witness statement, which is about what you saw or heard at the time. When you make your VPS you are able to say whether or not you would like to have it read aloud or played (if recorded), in court if the suspect is found guilty. You are also able to say whether you would like it read aloud by someone else. If your VPS is read aloud in court it could be reported by any media who may be present. If you are initially unsure about making a VPS when you are giving a witness statement about what happened, you may choose to make a VPS at a later time-provided this is before the case comes to court or the suspect is sentenced.

The VPS is your voice in the criminal justice process.

You can make a VPS when you give your witness statement to the police. Even if you’re not asked for a witness statement you can still make a VPS if you’re:

  • intimidated or vulnerable, have been persistently targeted or are the victim of a serious crime

  • the parent or guardian of a young victim of crime

  • a close relative of someone who died as the result of a crime

You can’t change a VPS, once you’ve signed it, nor can you use it to say what punishment you think the defendant should receive. However, you can give the police another VPS if you want to add new information. The decision as to who reads out the VPS is ultimately for the court, but it will always take into account your choice, and follow them unless there is a good reason not to. If you do not want your VPS read aloud yourself or have it read aloud on your behalf, you do not have to choose this option. Your VPS will still be considered as part of the sentence before the court prior to sentencing if the defendant is found guilty. If at first you choose to to have your VPS read aloud but later decide you do not want this you can change your mind. 

At Beacon, we’ll help you prepare your Victim Personal Statement.