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 1. Why would I be called forward to be a prosecution witness?

You would be called forward to be a witness if you provided information to the police (in the form of a witness statement) that contained important information surrounding the events in question. You would have seen something that the Prosecutor wants you to inform the court about to assist in their case of proving the accused as guilty of the offence.

2. What is expected of me?

All that is expected of a witness is to tell the truth.

3. Do I have to attend Court? I don't want to because:

(i) I am too scared to give evidence

This is a normal reaction and assistance can be provided. An appointment with the court can be arranged beforehand for you to have the opportunity to look around the court room and ask questions about the process. Additionally, witness support can be provided on the day you are to go to court to give evidence. This means that a person who has experience of helping witnesses can be with you at court to explain what will happen. If you feel that you need this, you can contact the court to ask for witness support to be there for you. Alternatively, you can contact the police officer dealing with the case you are giving evidence in and they will help to arrange this for you. If you want to bring a friend or family member to court with you to give you support, you can do this also.

(ii) I am not interested in giving evidence

When you provided your signed witness statement to the police, you would have been informed at the time that you may be required to give evidence at court. If you decide that you no longer wish to give evidence after having given your statement, you must inform the police immediately. You must be aware that even if you decide that you do not want to give evidence, the court may still require you to give it and can require your attendance at court to do so.

(iii) My employer won't let me have time off

If this is a situation because they do not want to pay you to have time off, this can be easily remedied by completing the 'Witness Expense claim form' as found on this website. The Crown will reimburse you for loss of income or leave. Additionally, the instruction for you to be served notice as a witness comes
from the Prosecutor which your employer will have to comply with.

If you still have difficulties with your employer allowing you time off, please contact the police and they will notify the Prosecutor of your issues. The Prosecutor can then either contact your employer directly or can obtain an order from the court requiring your employer to allow you time to give evidence.

(iv) I told the police I didn't see anything

You would only be called forward if you have provided a witness statement. You may think that your information was not important but the Prosecutor has obviously seen something that is of value to their case. You would not be called forward to provide evidence if what you witnessed was of no importance.

(v) I know the accused

We understand that this can be an extremely difficult situation. However, a witness must tell the truth about what they saw or heard. If you lie to a court, you commit a very serious criminal offence for which you could be prosecuted. If the accused asks you, or tries to persuade you, to either not give evidence or change your version of events, they commit a very serious offence and you should inform the police immediately.

4. How will I know when I need to attend court to give evidence?

When you give your witness statement to the police, the officer will ask you whether you have any dates in the future when you would be unable to attend court. These dates will be taken into account when setting a date for the trial.

Once a date and time has been set for your attendance at court, you will be notified of it. Sometimes dates and times can change at late notice but, if this happens, the police will try to give you as much notice as possible.

5. Can I meet with anyone beforehand to discuss what this involves?

In certain types of serious cases, the Prosecutor may ask to meet with you before the hearing at court when you are due to give evidence. If this happens, the Prosecutor will not be allowed to talk to you about what you saw and heard but can tell you about the process of giving evidence and can try to answer any questions you have about this.

In the majority of cases, the Prosecutor cannot meet with you before the hearing at court. However, the Prosecutor will meet you at court before you give your evidence and will be able to advise you as to the process of giving evidence and answer any questions you have about this. Again, the Prosecutor will not be allowed to speak to you about what you are going to give evidence about.

6. I would like to look at the court room before I give my evidence. Can I do this?

Yes. You can view the court room either on the day you give your evidence or before that if you prefer. Simply inform the police of your wish to do this before the day you are due to attend court.

7. I will have difficulty getting to court. Can you help me?

If you have any difficulties getting to court to give evidence, please let the police know before the day you are due to give evidence and they will assist you with this.

8. I can't remember what I said in my witness statement.

You will have the opportunity to read through your statement whilst you are waiting to be called into the court room. No-one will expect you to give evidence about something without you having been given the chance to refresh your memory from your witness statement beforehand.

9. I don't want to bump into the accused when I am waiting at court. Can anything be done to avoid this happening?

Yes. The court can help you by, if necessary, allowing you to enter and leave the court building by a door other than the public entrance. Also, when you are waiting to give your evidence, you can sit in another part of the Town Hall to make sure that you do not need to sit with or see the accused before and after you give your evidence.

10. Who will be in Court when I give my evidence?

A criminal court is normallyheld in public. This is important so that the public can see justice being done fairly and openly. There are rare occasions when members of the public can be removed from a court room and this would only normally occur where the allegation to be tried relates to the sexual abuse of a child and the child in question is giving evidence.  Although there are other situations where courts can be closed to the public, this is rare.

The usual attendees of a criminal court:

  • "The judges" who will either be three Justices of the Peace or the Senior Magistrate or the Chief Justice (depending upon how serious the allegation is that the accused faces)
  • Clerk to the Court (who will take notes throughout)
  • The accused person(s)
  • Prosecution lawyer
  • Defence lawyer (if the accused has opted for this)
  • Media (normally only 2 or 3)
  • Members of the public (although, quite often, the only members of the public present are family and friends of the accused person. Bear in mind that you may have your own supporter in court as you give evidence if you wish and they are unconnected to the case.)

11. Does that mean that my name will appear in the newspaper and on the radio?

In most cases, the press is entitled to publish the names of any witnesses who give evidence in a trial. However, in some cases, a court may restrict the ability of the press to publish this information. If you have real concerns about this, let the police officer know. He or she will then inform the Prosecutor who will then consider whether there are legal grounds to apply for your details not to be published.

12. I don't want the accused person see me give evidence – will they be in the court room?

The accused will be in attendance as, during the trial process, they are innocent until proven guilty. It is their right to witness what they are being accused of and by whom.

However, if you are genuinely in fear of giving evidence then the court has powers to allow you to give your evidence in such a way that the accused cannot see you. For example, the court might put screens up to shield you from the accused. If you are fearful of giving evidence, notify the police as soon as possible and they will take a further witness statement from you setting out why you feel that way. If appropriate, the Prosecutor can then make an application to the court for you to be screened from the accused.

13. My child has been asked to be a witness and I am concerned that they are too young to be able to give evidence in court. What can be done to help them?

If your child has been the victim of, or has witnessed a sexual or violent crime then the police, in the initial stages of the investigation into the allegation, should have taken your child's account by video recording rather than by written statement. In these circumstances, it is usually the case that the Prosecutor will make an application to the court for the video recording to be played in court as your child's evidence. If this is granted, it will mean that your
child will not have to be in the court room. However, it is likely that they will still need to attend court to allow the accused's legal representative to ask questions. However, this would normally be done through a video link so your child would not need to go into court and face the accused. Your child would sit in a different room within the court building and would only see and hear the legal practitioners and the judge. Although the accused would be able to see your child on the screen he or she would not be seen by your child.

If your child's account was not video recorded by the police then it may still be possible to ask the court to allow your child to give evidence either out of sight of the accused or from a different room in the court building. If you wish this to happen, please notify the police who will then pass this information on to the Prosecutor for the necessary application to be made to the court.

14. I suffer from a physical disability or have mental health issues. What can be done to help me to give evidence?

If you are physically disabled, then everything possible will be done to help you to give your evidence comfortably. You will be assisted in getting into and out of the court and you will be able to sit when you give your evidence.

If you have any mental health issues then, if the police were not aware of them when you gave your account of the incident, you should notify them immediately. This information will then be passed to the Prosecutor who will consider whether any further information is needed from you or your doctor and then decide whether it would be possible to apply to the court for you to be allowed to give your evidence either from behind a screen, through an intermediary or from a room other than the court room.

15. I do not speak very good English. What can be done to help me give my evidence?

If English is not your first language and you feel that you need assistance to give your evidence, please tell the police as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made for an interpreter to assist you. You will not be required to pay for the services of an interpreter as the Government will pay for this for you.

16. What happens after I have given my evidence?

Once you have given your evidence, you have done all that has been asked of you. You will be released from court and will be allowed to leave the court building. Do not forget to complete your witness expense claim form and send it to the Attorney General's Chambers if there are any expenses you have incurred as a result of giving evidence.