Going to court – FAQs

A witness care officer will contact you and tell you when you need to go to court.
If you’ve made a statement to the police you will have been asked to sign the statement agreeing to attend court as a witness. If you have been asked to attend court then it’s likely that you will have to give evidence.

If you decide not to give evidence the magistrate or judge can issue a summons requiring you to attend court. If you still decide not to attend court, in exceptional circumstances, a warrant can be issued for your arrest, and you will be brought to court to explain why you have refused to attend court willingly.

This depends on a number of factors. Your witness care officer and the witness service will keep you updated as the trial progresses.
It is not advisable to bring children to court (unless they are witnesses). If you can’t arrange for your children to be cared for you should consider bringing another adult with you to look after them. The witness service cannot look after any children at court unless they are witnesses.

Yes, although depending on the space available at court there may not be room for them in the witness waiting rooms.

Contact your witness care officer (the person who has asked you to come to court) and explain the situation.

Please see the Crown Prosecution Service website for the latest guidance on how to claim your expenses. (You may be able to claim digitally, or you may need a form.)

Make sure you keep all receipts for any money you’ve spent on travel, parking etc. It can take two to four weeks to receive payment.

If you contact Citizens Advice witness service at the court where you will be giving evidence, they can arrange a visit and show you around the courtroom before you have to attend court.
You will be given a copy of your witness statement when you go to court, so that you can refresh your memory before you give your evidence. But you will not be allowed to read your witness statement when giving your evidence in the court room. If you need help to read your statement, please tell a member of the Citizens Advice witness service.
Victim Personal Statement (VPS) is made by a victim of crime. It gives you a chance to say how you’ve been affected by what happened and the impact the crime has had on your life. It’s different to the witness statement, but it’s just as important.

A VPS can help the police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide whether to oppose any bail application by the offender; if an offender is given bail, it can also help to decide any bail conditions. The VPS helps the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer understand the impact the crime has had on you, your family and friends.

When passing sentence, the judge or magistrate will consider all factors in the case, including the evidence that they’ve heard or that has been read in court. They will also consider the Victim Personal Statement (VPS).

The VPS tells the court about the impact of the crime on the victim or victims. The judge or magistrate will then take into account any relevant sentencing guidelines and pass an appropriate sentence.

The VPS should not contain any reference to what a victim believes is the appropriate sentence for the offender. The sentence is entirely a matter for the judge or magistrate.

Yes, although this is at the discretion of the court.

When you are asked if you want to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) you will also be asked if you want to read it to the court at the sentencing hearing, or if you would rather the prosecutor read the VPS to the court. Another option is that the statement is not read aloud to the court but placed before the judge to read.

Exceptionally, where the offender takes issue with what you have said in your VPS, the judge or magistrate may allow the defence barrister to cross-examine you on its content.

Some courts have a separate entrance for witnesses.

If you’re a young, vulnerable or intimidated witness, there are also ways that the court can help you to give your best evidence, which are called ‘special measures’. These must be requested and then approved by the court.

Contact the Citizens Advice witness service to have a look at the courtroom before the day of the trial so that you can decide if special measures would be helpful. The Witness Service will explain the options available to you.

It’s the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that brings the case against the suspect on behalf of the Crown. You are asked by them to be a ‘witness of fact’ because you have first-hand knowledge of the events that took place. The prosecutor presents the case on behalf of the CPS. The Crown must make the jury sure that a defendant is guilty in order to secure a conviction.

The prosecutor should introduce themselves to you, but cannot discuss the evidence. If you wish to see the prosecutor, tell a member of the witness service and they will help.

The defence lawyer’s role is to represent the defendant (the person accused) and to ‘cross-examine’ you. The defendant has said they are ‘not guilty’ so they may have a different version of events to yours. So this means that the lawyer will put the defendant’s version of events to you, for you to agree or disagree with. If the questioning is too aggressive or inappropriate, the trial judge or magistrate can intervene to stop it.
The court will break for lunch at some point during the day, usually around 1pm.

Whether you can go out, and with whom, will depend on who has given evidence. The witness service will be able to explain what will happen over lunch time.

The magistrates or judge will tell you when you can leave. If you’re not sure, ask the Citizens Advice witness service who will liaise with the court for you.

It’s possible that the trial will continue through to another day, but this will become clearer as the case progresses. The witness service will keep you updated.

After you’ve given evidence and have been released (the judge or magistrates have said you can go), you’re allowed to sit in the back of the court. However, there are occasions when this might not be a good idea. You should discuss this with the witness service.

Your witness care officer will contact you to tell you the outcome of the trial.

The money is paid by the defendant directly to the court. You should receive a letter from the witness care officer explaining the details of the compensation award and how the compensation will be paid to you. Find out more about compensation for victims of crime.
If you’re attending court as a witness and have any questions or need support during the trial, contact the Citizens Advice witness service.