Giving Evidence in Court

What Happens?

 

I am a victim or prosecution witness

If you are a victim of a crime or a witness for the prosecution, the police will write to you and tell you what date you need to attend court. The letter will detail how you can make contact if you'd like to visit the court before the hearing. Many witnesses find a short visit to the court useful and it will help you to know what to expect on the day.

I am a defence witness

If you are a witness for the defence, the defence lawyer will let you know when you need to come to court. You are also welcome to visit the court prior to the hearing. Please ask the defence lawyer to contact the court to make arrangements.

 

If you need special help in the court room, eg if you are disabled or require an interpreter, please ensure that the court is informed in advance of the hearing. You may do this by contacting those who have informed you of the hearing date and letting them know of your requirements.

 

What happens when I arrive at court?

When you arrive at court please ring the bell to inform the court staff of your attendance. You will be asked to take a seat in the waiting area and the prosecution or defence lawyer will come and speak to you prior to the hearing commencing. If you are worried about waiting in the same are as other people, please tell the court staff and arrangements will be made, wherever possible, for you to be given a separate area to wait in. If you have given a statement, you may ask the prosecution or defence lawyer to see it again before you go into court to allow you to refresh your memory.

 

What about giving evidence?

The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 requires that evidence is given to the court on oath or affirmation. Juries and interpreters must also be sworn. The oath or affirmation is a solemn undertaking to the court and God (oath only) that you will tell the truth. A failure to adhere to the oath/affirmation can render the person who took it guilty of perjury. This is an offence punishable with imprisonment of up to 7 years.

 

Oaths are used unless a person objects to being sworn. You will be asked before giving evidence whether you would rather give your evidence under oath or affirmation. 

 

What Holy Books do the Courts have?

The courts have the following holy books:

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • Bhagavad Gita
  • The Kitab-I-Aqdas
  • The Qu'ran

 

I am worried about coming to court, do I really need to attend?

If you have been issued with a witness warning asking you to attend court, it means that the lawyers in the case have some questions they would like to ask you. If you don't attend and your evidence is considered important to the case then an application may be made to the court to ensure you come to court.

The court may be able to provide assistance to you if you are:

  • under 18
  • afraid of giving evidence
  • a victim of a sexual offence

This might include:

  • providing screens so you don't have to see the defendant
  • giving evidence via live link to the court room

Speak to the police or lawyer who has asked you to come to court if you would like to know more about your options.

 

I have been sent my witness warning but I can't attend on the date indicated, what should I do?

Don't just ignore it! It is important that you let the person who has sent you the letter know if you cannot attend.  They may be able to ask the court for a different date for the hearing.