Advice and Support for Witnesses
Posted on 12 February 2016
Helping to deliver justice
Before the courts can find someone guilty or not guilty of a crime, they need to hear and consider the evidence provided by witnesses.
If you are asked to be a witness in a trial or a hearing in court, you play a vital part indelivering justice.
By making a solemn promise to tell the truth and by giving your evidence in court, you make it possible for the magistrates (or the judge and jury if you are called to be a witness in the Crown Court) to understand what really happened.
Why would you be asked to be a witness?
You may be asked to be a witness if you:
- Know something about a particular crime, incident or dispute, for example, because you saw it happen
- Have specialist knowledge on a subject that would be useful in deciding the facts in a trial (you will then be an expert witness)
- You know one of the people involved in a case (you will then be a character witness). You would be asked to answer questions about, for example, how well you know the person and whether he or she is trustworthy.
What is it like to be a witness?
You may not know what to expect if you are called as a witness - or you may find it very different from what you expected.
This links below will help prepare you for what will happen. It explains:
- Where to find further help and advice on being a witness
- Where you will give your evidence - the different kinds of court
- Who’s who in the courtroom and what some of the legal language means
- What happens before you go to court
- What happens when you are in court
- What happens after you give evidence.
Remember: If you have given a statement you may be asked to go to court to give evidence. If you are asked, then you must go to court.
If you have any problems or concerns about going to court, you must let the person who asked you to go to court know as soon as possible. If you have to go to court but the court does not think that you will go voluntarily, they may issue a witness summons against you. If you still fail to go to court without a good reason, the court could find you ‘in contempt of court’ and issue a warrant for your arrest.
Going to court as a witness
The Ministry of Justice has produced a series of videos to help and advise victims and witnesses, who may have been asked to give evidence in a court case. An introductory video can be found below:
Last updated 12nd February 2016