What Do Witnesses Have To Do In Court?
What to expect as a witness
If you have provided either the defence or the prosecution with a statement then you may be called to give evidence at the defendants trial.
Is there help available for me?
Support is available through the witness service for any witness who must attend court. The support provided may be practical or it may be emotional. Information can be provided about the court process, they can show you the courtroom prior to the trial and help you out with any expense claims you may need to make.
If you are a prosecution witness the Crown Prosecution Service witness support unit will contact you to provide you with contact details for witness support. If however, you are a witness for the defendant then the defendant’s solicitor can provide you with support, as well as the contact details for the local witness service.
What happens at court?
There is a separate witness room that you may wait in if you would prefer that to the general waiting room. Before the trail starts, you will be spoken to by the relevant lawyer, should that be defence or prosecution.
Will I be told what to say?
The lawyer cannot “coach” you, but they are allowed to provide you with information on trial procedure, layout of the court and the roles of those involved. Training witnesses could have a very negative effect on your statement so therefore, there are very strict rules surrounding the issue.
Can I read my statement?
Yes, a copy of your statement will be given to you prior to the trial so that you can read through it before giving evidence. You will not usually be allowed to have it with you when you give evidence though. If the rules of evidence allow, you might be able to refer to your statement during evidence as a way of refreshing your memory.
Can I speak to any other witnesses?
If there are more than one witness then you won’t be able to communicate with anyone who has given evidence while you are still waiting to do so.
For defence witnesses, once the trial has started you should not discuss anything with the defendant.
Lawyers are not permitted to discuss any evidence given in the trial with you while you are waiting to give evidence yourself.
What happens in court?
At the relevant time, you will be called into court and either asked to swear on a holy book or declare that you will only tell the truth. Following this, the prosecutor will ask you questions, first if you are a prosecution witness and then by the defendant’s representative, or vice versa if you are a defence witness. If the defendant is not represented, you may be asked questions by a court appointed lawyer in his place if the court do not feel it is appropriate for him to ask you questions directly.
When you finish giving evidence, it is your choice whether you leave court or stay in the gallery to watch the trail.
I’m really worried, do I have to attend court?
If you feel that “special measures” would be a benefit to you, such as screening from the defendant or giving evidence through a video link, then you should contact the prosecution, defence solicitor or court as appropriate.
A witness summons can be issued if the court is made aware that you would not like to go. In this situation you should speak to a lawyer about the issue. You could be arrested and brought to court if you fail to attend court in answer to a witness summons.
How can we help?
Please contact us on 0161 477 1121 to discuss any criminal case – our highly experienced team guarantee to provide the very highest levels of service and case preparation.