Getting the Date of Trial and Help in Court
As a Victim or a Prosecution Witness
When going to court as a victim or witness, you can get help and expert advice from a Witness Care Officer. They work for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police.
The Witness Care Officer will be your coordinator at the court. They would be the main focal point, or point of contact (POC), to get information.
Your Witness Care Officer would have already informed you of the date of the trial. Having arrived at the court as a victim or witness, they will keep you up to date with all the proceedings for that day.
Their role also includes completing the needs assessments for victims and witnesses. They will ensure you get any support that you need from start to finish.
A Witness Care Officer would also be the person to ask in advance if you need help going to court. They can help you to arrange childcare or organise transportation if needed – for example.
Visiting the court before the trial date can help you prepare and understand what to expect on the day. Ask the Witness Care Officer if you would like to make a court familiarisation visit before your trial.
Some people will need special help inside the courtroom. You may need a translator or some adapted facilities as a disabled person. If so, you should contact the court in advance to let them know what you are going to need.
Note: A different support process exists for anyone going to court as a prosecution witness in Scotland.
As a Defence Witness
Being a witness for the defence follows a different process. The lawyer for the defence would inform you of the date that you need to attend the court. The defence lawyer would be your single point of contact if you need any help going to court.
Note: Do not delay informing the defence lawyer (or Witness Care Officer) if you are unable to attend court on the date of the trial.
Claiming Expenses for Going to Court
If you go to court to give evidence as a victim or a witness you can claim some of the expense of doing so. You can get an expenses claim form from the court official or from your solicitor.
Appearing as a witness in court does not mean your employer has to pay you for time off work for public duties. The current rates of ‘reasonable’ expenses and allowances incurred include:
- Child care: £67 per day.
- Loss of earnings: £33.50 (up to 4 hours) or £67 (for longer).
- Loss of earnings for self-employed: £42.95 (up to 4 hours) or £85.90 (for longer).
- Meals and refreshments: £2.25 (up to 5 hours) or £4.50 (5 to 10 hours).
- Travelling expenses: Standard or 2nd class fare (25 pence per mile if you drive).
Reviewing Your Witness Statement
It may have been some time since you made your witness statement at the police station. It would be wise to refresh your memory by reviewing the statement before giving evidence. You can contact the police to read it again before going to court.
You would need to ask the Crown Prosecution Service to read the witness statement again if you got called as a prosecution witness.
Getting Help and Support on Court Day
The Citizens Advice Office has further information about going to court and giving evidence. In some cases, their ‘witness service’ can also provide extra help and support during the trial.
A Witness Care Officer will support you throughout the trial on the day – even if you are not giving evidence. The police will give your details to a court officer, whose role is to:
- Inform you of the date of the trial and the venue of where it will take place.
- Arrange for a court familiarisation visit before the trial starts. This is the best way to find out what to expect when going to court as a victim or witness.
- Give you information and advice about attending the trial. They can help with any worries or concerns that you may have.
- Arrange for someone to accompany you in the courtroom (if needed).
You can get an interpreter at a court if you requested one. A court interpreter can translate what happens during the hearing. But, they cannot represent you or give you any legal advice.
Going to Court with a Child Witness
The police or a child witness care officer can help with any concerns or worries about your child being a witness and giving evidence. They will arrange for child witnesses to take rest breaks and offer support throughout the trial.
You might want to prepare your child for court and learn what special measures are available. The full guidance booklet has information for parents, carers, and anyone going to court with a young witness. Further reading is available from:
Waiting to get Called
As a rule, there will be a separate room where the victim or prosecution witness can wait to get called. It means you would not meet the defendant (or their family and friends) ‘face to face’ before the trial. Speak to the court staff if there is no separate waiting area. They will find somewhere safe for you to wait.
Note: Tell the court staff or your solicitor if anyone tries to intimidate you while you are waiting to get called. They will report the incident to the police.
Extra Protection in the Courtroom
Often, the court will take extra steps to protect you if you are under 18, disabled, afraid to give evidence, or a victim of a sexual offence.
The extra protection provided for you in the courtroom can include:
- Asking members of the public to leave the courtroom when you give your evidence (for cases of a sexual offence).
- Erecting screens so you do not need to see the defendant.
- Giving video conferencing evidence or via a live CCTV link.
Note: You may need to ask for someone to arrange extra protection in the courtroom. Talk to the court officer, your solicitor, or the police for further information.