The person accused of the crime will be brought before a magistrates’ court, usually within a few days of being charged, to make a plea. This means they will be asked if they want to:

  • Admit the crime, and plead guilty – in this case you will not have to go to court
  • Deny it, and plead not guilty

The Witness Care Unit within Goleudy will update you after first hearing and will be your single point of contact through to sentencing.

In some cases a specialist police officer will be you single point of contact.

You might have to go to court if they plead not guilty. This means there will be a trial to find out if they are guilty. 

You should only have to go to court when you are due to give evidence, and it might be some time before you know if you need to go to court, as legal cases can take a long time to prepare.

You will be told if the suspect is released on bail until the trial takes place, as well as the conditions of their bail. This might include not going to certain places or contacting certain people.

It's important you discuss the support you will require at court, before you get there.  You can do this via Citizens Advice Witness Service (CAWS).

The Witness Care Officer will co-ordinate your attendance at court. 

They will liaise with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and support you with any issues such as transport, childcare and accommodation. 

Your Witness Care Officer will also be able to help you if you need an interpreter or intermediary.

If you are nervous about attending at court, we can support you and liaise with CAWS, or ask your Witness Care Officer to refer you.

CAWS can arrange a pre-trial court visit or take you through the process.

The Witness Service are at court.  You will be met at the entrance and taken to the witness room.

You will be provided with your statement at court before giving evidence.  You will have an opportunity to read through your statement as many times as you need before giving evidence.

If you have been called as a defence witness, you can ask the defence solicitor to let you see the statement.

If you can’t make the date of the trial, you should tell your witness care officer or the defence lawyer straight away.

If you have any pre-booked holidays or medical appointments, you may be asked to provide booking confirmation/evidence of appointment.  The Witness Care Officer will provide the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with all the information you give and will update you once the CPS have made a decision.

You should make sure you arrive at the court at least 30 minutes before the trial is due to start. You will need to go through a security check, then to the reception desk to hand in the letter asking you to go to court.

You will usually be met by someone from the Witness Service and someone from the prosecution or defence.

Prosecution and defence witnesses are seated in separate rooms while they wait to give evidence.

When the court are ready for you to give evidence, the court usher will collect you and take you into the court room.

You will be taken into the witness box in the court room. You will then be asked to swear to tell the truth. You can swear on a holy book, such as the Bible, or you can affirm (promise to tell the truth).

The defence and prosecution lawyers will ask questions about your version of events to make sure the facts are correct.

Tell the court if you don’t understand the question or you’re unsure about an answer. Ask for the question to be repeated if you find it hard to hear.

When you answer:

  • Take your time
  • Speak clearly
  • Try not to leave anything out

If you need extra help giving evidence, the court can provide an intermediary. This is someone who will explain the questions put to you in court and who will help you to respond. An intermediary will need to be applied for before you attend court.  Please ask your Witness Care Officer about how you do this.

If the court needs you to stay on after you finished giving evidence, they’ll let you know.  If not, you are free to leave or if you want, you can sit in the public gallery.

The court might be able to take special steps to protect vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in the courtroom, for example if you are

  • under 18
  • disabled
  • afraid to give evidence
  • a victim of a sexual assault

Special measures could include:

  • screens to stop you from having to see the defendant
  • giving evidence via a live TV link
  • asking the public to leave the courtroom when you give evidence if it’s a case involving a sexual assault

If you think you need special protection, speak to the police officer, witness care officer or the solicitor who asked you to go to court.

When you have finished giving evidence, sometimes you might be asked to wait. If there are no more questions you will be allowed to leave. This means you can go home, or stay and listen to the rest of the case.

If you are a victim or a prosecution witness, your witness care officer will update you with the result.

If you are a defence witness, the person who asked you to come to court should tell you the result of the trial.

The offender could be given a custodial sentence or a community sentence.

The probation service will offer a victim contact scheme to victims that fall under the criteria and will inform you of certain key stages in an offender’s sentence. You can give your views on licence conditions and will be told of any that relate to you.

Please notify your Witness Care Officer if you would like to be referred to the Probation Service, or to discuss the possibility of restorative justice.

The defendant can appeal a guilty verdict, and you will be informed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if they do. The Criminal Cases Review Commission may tell you if they review a case and the outcome.