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Before and at Court

This will be a long process but help and support is available

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What should I expect at court?

If a suspect is charged with an offence that person may plead guilty or not guilty.

If a suspect (called a defendant in court) pleads not guilty then it is likely that you will be required to attend Court to give evidence. The defendant can change their plea at any time during the process. The defendant may have a solicitor to advise them and represent them, in court.

The Police work closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It is the Police that will remain in contact with you during the Court process. This will either be from the officer who investigated your crime or the Police's Witness Care Unit. 

Arrangements can be made for you to visit the Court to have a look around at your convenience. You can also arrange this yourself by visiting www.citizensadvice.org.uk/witness

You can get more support about going to court from Victim Support: www.victimsupport.org.uk/going-court/ and from the CPS: https://www.cps.gov.uk/information-and-support-victims-witnesses

Special measures can be discussed before the court case. These measures are there to help vulnerable and intimidated victims and witnesses. They help someone give their best evidence and are designed to help reduce some of the fear and anxiety of giving evidence. It may even be possible in certain circumstances to give evidence away from the court at a different location.

Such measures must be agreed by the Court.

Measures may include:

  • Screens
  • Live link
  • Evidence given in private
  • Removal of wigs and gowns by judges and barristers
  • Visual recorded interview
  • Pre-trial visual recorded cross examination or re-examination
  • Using an intermediary
  • Communication aids

Further information is available about Going to Court: Going to court | Police.uk (www.police.uk)

On the day you may be able to arrive through a different entrance to the defendant and wait in a separate area.

If you do have concerns about going to court you must tell the Officer in the Case (OIC) or the Witness Care Unit. They are there to help and support you. It is vital that you attend Court. The Court can issue a witness summons if you refuse to attend.

However, it is possible you may not need to go to court to give evidence. Such circumstances include when the defendant has decided to plead guilty. In this case there is no trial. The Judge assesses the evidence and will sentence the defendant.

In addition, your evidence as a victim or witness may be agreed by the defence solicitor or barrister. If so, then you may not be needed in person at Court. Your statement may be read out in Court instead.

If you are required to attend court, this may be at a Magistrates Court or at a Crown Court. Where a case is heard usually depends on the seriousness of the case and the sentencing powers given to the court. 

A Magistrates Court can only impose a maximum sentence of 6 months. The Magistrates Court hears cases known as ’summary’ offences (some of the lower-level offences) and what we call ‘either way’ offences which can be heard in either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. 

More serious offences can only be heard in the Crown Court. These are known as ‘indictable only’ offences. These cases are heard by a Judge and a Jury. The Jury is comprised of 12 members of the public.

Please note that if a defendant pleads not guilty there can be many delays before the actual trial starts. The trial itself may last only a half a day or it may last for weeks or months. Again, this depends on the complexity and severity of the case.

The CPS must prove that the defendant is guilty ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’. The defence do not need to prove that the defendant is innocent.

  • You can claim expenses when you go to court.
  • Your employer doesn't have to pay you for your time off work.
  • You can claim expenses from the CPS for travel, meals, drinks, loss of earnings and childcare.
  • If you are not provided with an expenses form before the trial please ask for one from a court usher or someone from the Witness Care Unit.
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