Being a witness in court
For more detailed information, follow this link to purchase the Children’s Legal Centre’s detailed publication At the Police Station.
If you are asked to give evidence in court, do you have to go?
Yes, you must go even if you don’t want to. The letter that you receive asking you to be a witness is from the court and so you have to do what they ask. You can give evidence whatever age you are as long as you can understand the questions that you will be asked and can give answers that the judge and jury can understand.
What sort of help will you be given before you go to court to give evidence?
After you have been called to give evidence in court, you should hear from the Witness Service. The Witness Service will support you before you go to court to give evidence and also on the day of the trial. They can arrange for you to visit the court before the day of the trial so that you can see what it is like and learn more about what goes on there. They will explain what the judge, jury and lawyers do and where they sit. On the day that you give evidence they will meet you at the court and make sure that you have somewhere quiet to wait before you give evidence. They will also accompany you to the court room when it is time to give evidence. You can also be provided with a child information pack.
Do you have to go into the court room with the person that committed the crime?
Not in all cases. If the judge thinks that it will be too difficult for you to give evidence in the same room as the person accused of breaking the law, s/he might ask that a screen be put up in the court room so that you can’t see the person accused of the crime.
The judge could also allow you to give evidence from a different room using a video link. You will sit in a room away from the court room. In this room there will be a TV screen with a small camera attached to it. If this happens, you will be able to see and hear the judge and lawyers in the courtroom and they will be able to see and hear you. They will ask you questions via the TV link.
What will happen at court?
When you arrive at court on the day of the trial, you will be met by someone from the Witness Service, they will take you to a waiting room where you will wait until you are called to go into the court room or the live link room. Don’t worry, the person accused of the crime will be in a different room and you won’t have to see them, unless you give evidence in the court room.
What will happen after you give evidence?
You can leave the court after you have given evidence. A few weeks after the trial you should be informed by the Witness Service whether the person was found guilty and if so, what the judge and jury thought was the right punishment for the person accused of committing the crime.
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