Thank you for giving a statement, we need your help. The justice system cannot work without witnesses. They are the most important element in bringing offenders to justice.
Once you have made a statement, you may be asked to give evidence in court.
The officer dealing with your statement will give you the following details:
Name of the officer dealing with your case or taking this statement
Case identifier e.g. PSU number or complaint number
Is there anything else I can do?
Yes. It is important to tell us:
- if you have left anything out of your statement or if it is incorrect
- if your address or phone number changes (trials collapse every day because witnesses cannot be contacted in time)
- dates when you may not be able to go to court.
If this information changes please update us immediately.
Will the defendant or the defence lawyer be given my address?
No, your address is recorded on the back of, or the additional information page of your witness statement and the defendant or their solicitor only receives a copy of the front of the statement.
Your address will only be mentioned if that is where the incident took place. Also, witnesses are not usually asked to give their address out loud in court. The defendant or their solicitor is normally told the names of any witnesses
What will happen to my statement?
If the council decides to take legal action based in part on your statement it will be passed to our legal team along with all the other evidence. It is possible however that your statement will not be used. The case officer should ensure you are updated.
Who will read my statement?
Everyone involved with the case will be able to read your statement (for example the defence and the magistrates or judge).
Can I have a copy of my statement?
You can read a copy of your statement just prior to giving evidence, to refresh your memory. However, you cannot have a copy prior to that, in case you tried to memorise it or show it to another witness, which would breach rules on giving evidence.
What if someone tries to intimidate me?
It is a criminal offence to intimidate (frighten) a witness or anyone helping in an investigation. If you are harassed or threatened in any way before, during or after the trial, you should tell the case officer or the police (telephone 101) immediately.
Will I be told what is happening in the case?
We are improving procedures to keep victims up to date with what is happening and where possible we will do this. Contact the case officer if you have any questions or concerns. You will be contacted if you are needed to go to court (but it may be some time after you gave your statement as cases take time to prepare).
Victims of crime are usually told if a suspect is charged, what happens at court and if the case does not proceed for any reason. But witnesses (who are not victims of the crime) may not be contacted again if: the suspect admits the offence and is cautioned or pleads guilty at court; or there is not enough evidence to prosecute the suspect; or no suspect is identified.
Will I have to go to court?
You will only have to go to court if the defendant denies the charge and pleads ‘not guilty’ or pleads guilty but denies an important part of the offence which might affect the type of sentence they receive.
If you are asked to go to court, the prosecution and defence lawyers will ask you questions about your evidence. You will be able to read your statement to refresh your memory first. If you have given a statement and are then asked to go to court to give evidence, you must do so.
What will happen if I don’t 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 there is reason to believe that you will not go voluntarily, the court 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.
Where will the case be heard?
Most cases are heard by magistrates or a district judge in magistrates’ courts. Jury trials for more serious crimes are held in the Crown Court.
Will I be able to claim compensation?
If you have been the victim of a crime and the defendant is found guilty of it, you may be able to ask the court to consider ordering a compensation payment from the defendant. If you are interested in this, tell the officer in charge of the case or prosecuting lawyer beforehand in time to fill in the appropriate forms.
The sums you can ask for need to be directly related to the offence and readily quantifiable (e.g. a refund of the cost of a purchased item or the cost of repairs) and are limited to a maximum of £5,000 per offence in magistrates’ courts.
If they are not awarded, or you do not claim at the time, recompense from the defendant may still be available to you through civil action. The Citizens Advice Consumer Service (telephone 0808 223 1133) may be able to advise you on your rights.
Who can help?
Every court has a free and confidential Witness Service, run by Citizens Advice, and you can contact them before the trial. The Witness Service’s trained volunteers can offer:
- information on what happens at court
- emotional support and someone to talk to in confidence
- someone to go into the courtroom with you when you give evidence
- a visit to the court centre before the trial and, where possible, a look around a courtroom so you know what to expect.
The Witness Service does not discuss evidence or give legal advice.
To find out about your local Witness Service, look in the phone book under the name of the magistrates’ court or Crown Court or go to Citizens Advice – Getting involved with the Witness Service where you can also find advice on the process of going to court. Or telephone the Citizens Advice Witness Service on 0300 332 1000.
Extra help is available to support vulnerable or intimidated witnesses when they give evidence. If the prosecuting lawyer thinks that a witness qualifies for this extra help, known as ‘special measures’, they have to ask the magistrates or judge for permission to use them. The Witness Service volunteer, the Trading Standards Officer in the case or the prosecuting lawyer will tell you what type of help is available.
Can I get more information from anywhere else?
You can get general information about the criminal justice system and more information about being a witness at Crown Prosecution Service – Information and support for victims and witnesses. If you don’t have access to the internet at home, you can access it in most local libraries.