The build up to a trial can be stressful. It’s important to make use of the support that’s available and to know what to expect.
You are entitled to:
- be told of the time, date and location and outcome of any court hearings
- be told if you need to give evidence in court, what to expect, and to discuss what help and support you might need with the Witness Care Unit
- visit the court before the trial, and, on the day, to enter the court through a different entrance from the suspect and sit in a separate waiting area where possible
- meet the CPS prosecutor and ask him or her questions about the court process where circumstances permit
These entitlements are delivered by the Witness Care Unit and CPS.
Your entitlements are explained in detail in the Victims’ Code.
It might be your first time inside a court building so it’s important that you’re supported and prepared.
Make use of the Witness Service
If your case goes to court, the police will pass your details to the Witness Service. They’re based at the court and will help you with information and support throughout the trial.
Be prepared for dates to change
Often, more cases are listed than there are courtrooms. This is because trials often get cancelled at late notice. The argument is that overbooking makes better use of court time. But it means trials are often put back because there isn’t a court room available. For victims who have steeled themselves in readiness for a trial, discovering that it has been put back can be distressing and frustrating. Be prepared for this.
Ask how to avoid seeing the offender
Victims need to be aware that the offender and their family and friends are also in the court building at the same, and there is a possibility of seeing them in the communal areas, corridors, canteen and toilets. If you want to avoid any possibility of this, you need to alert the Witness Care Unit staff before the day. Some court buildings have separate entrances and waiting rooms, but sadly, this does not apply to all court buildings.
Guidance on preparing for the trial
The victim information site explains how to:
- get ready for court
- prepare to give your evidence
- ask for ‘special measures’ – like giving evidence by video link