Frequently asked questions

Many victims and witnesses have not encountered the criminal justice system before. The prosecution process and the way courts work will be unfamilar to them and going to court can sometimes seem daunting. There is information for victims and witnesses on the CPS national website. We have also provided these frequently asked questions to help you understand how the process works and how the CPS can help you give your evidence as best you can.

  • Why do I have to attend court? I have already given a statement to the police.
  • What can my Witness Care Officer help with?
  • Is there any help for me with giving evidence?
  • What are special measures?
  • What is the witness service?
  • Will I be able to see the court beforehand?
  • What will happen when I go into the courtroom?
  • Will I be allowed to see my statement before I go into court?
  • Who will be in the courtroom?
  • What happens if the defendant tries to intimidate me?
  • Are there any specialist agencies which can support me?
  • What is an intermediary and who can have help from them?
  • What happens after I have given evidence?
  • Will I be told the outcome of the trial?
  • How can I ensure the court knows how the crime has affected me as a victim?
  • Will you tell me if you change or drop the charges?
  • If you drop a case where I am a victim, or decide not to charge someone, can I ask you to change your decision?
Why do I have to attend court? I have already given a statement to the police.

The evidence of witnesses is vitally important in ensuring justice is done. To prove a case beyond reasonable doubt, a witness may be required to give their evidence in person. The witness care unit does not make decisions as to who is required to attend court as this is for the CPS and defence to decide.  The witness care officers cannot answer complicated legal questions about the case such as detailed reasons for adjournments etc. The witness care officers are reliant on the CPS to provide them with all the general information about the progress of the case in court. 

What can my Witness Care Officer help with?

As well as providing general help and information regarding the court process and keeping you informed on the progress of your case, your witness care officer can assist with arrangements to get you to court, including:

  • Childcare arrangements
  • Organising transport
  • Write to your employers if necessary
  • Arranging for an interpreter to assist you in Court

(Please note, the CPS will give you an expense claim form in court to recover any loss of earnings which is payable within the Home Office guidelines)

Is there any help for me with giving evidence?

Your witness care officer will discuss your individual needs with you. Some people find the process of giving evidence in court particularly difficult or daunting for several reasons. Such witnesses may be allowed special measures to help them give their evidence in the best possible way. The police officer may have discussed this with you when you made your statement.

What are special measures?

Special measures are not available to everyone but will be offered to victims and witnesses who are particularly vulnerable and/or intimidated, including children. The CPS has to apply for special measures in court and they can be opposed by the defence. The ultimate decision rests with the court. Your witness care officer will explain these fully, however the most common special measures used are:

  • A video link from the witness suite or remote location so you do not have to give evidence in the courtroom
  • Screens so the accused cannot see you
  • An interpreter if English is not your preferred language
  • An intermediary for witnesses who may need assistance understanding the process and communicating evidence, for example young children or someone with learning or communication difficulties
What is the witness service?

The witness service is run by Victim Support, a voluntary organisation.  It helps witnesses cope with going to court by giving them information and support. Family and friends who are attending court can get help too, as well as children. It supports both prosecution and defence witnesses.

Will I be able to see the court beforehand?

Yes. Your witness care officer will put you in touch with the witness service who will arrange a court visit for you so you will be more familiar with the court. This can be arranged in advance. The witness service volunteer or court usher will give you a tour of the court which includes the court room, witness suite, how the special measures work (if required) and the court facilities. If you have any questions at that time they will be more than happy to answer them.

What will happen when I go into the courtroom?

When the court is ready for you to give your evidence, you will be shown to the witness box. You will be asked to take the oath, which means that you swear to tell the truth on the holy book of your religion or if you do not subscribe to a specific faith you can affirm (promise to tell the truth). Please let your witness care officer know if your faith requires you make any preparations before you take the oath or affirm. You will then be asked questions about your evidence by the prosecution and the defence. If there is more than one defendant, the representatives of all the defendants will be allowed to ask you questions.

Will I be allowed to see my statement before I go into court?

You are allowed to see your statement to refresh your memory before you go into court. This will happen on the day of the trial but cannot be done beforehand.

Who will be in the courtroom?

The process for magistrates' court and crown court differs so your witness care officer will be able to give you more information that is of relevance to you. Your witness care officer can also arrange a visit to the court to help you become more familiar with the court and the services available before the trial itself.

What happens if the defendant tries to intimidate me?

Intimidation of witnesses is a criminal offence and although rare is viewed very seriously by the courts. You must report it to the police or your witness care officer immediately. This will be investigated and can lead to further charges for the defendant.

Are there any specialist agencies which can support me?

There are several specialist organisations that provide support for victims of domestic violence, serious sexual assault, homophobic, racist or religious crime in the East Midlands. Your witness care officer can refer you to other organisations.

What is an intermediary and who can have help from them?

Intermediaries help witnesses with communication difficulties understand questions during an investigation or testimony at trial and help them communicate their answers. They can also help out in the pre-trial preparation, such as a pre-trial court visit.

Intermediaries are independent and do not pursue their own line of questioning. They are not an interpreter, investigator, advocate appropriate adult or witness supporter. Their duty is to the court and to justice. They have to make a declaration stating this when they assist a witness in giving evidence.

What happens after I have given evidence?

Your witness care officer will update you on the result of the case. There is no need for you to stay for the duration of the trial if you do not wish to do so. If the defendant is given 12 months or more custodial sentence for a sexual or violent offence, your witness care officer, will, with your permission, refer the case to the probation service who under their victim contact scheme will keep you updated and involved in any decisions about the defendant's parole.

Will I be told the outcome of the trial?

Yes you will. If you had a witness care officer they will let you know the result of the trial once the result is available from the Court. Sometimes this can be up to three days after the hearing although efforts are made by the witness care officer to get results much sooner. The witness care officer will let you know the result as soon as they are able to do so. If you didn't have a witness care officer you should contact whoever asked you to attend court and they will be able to let you know the outcome.

How can I ensure the court knows how the crime has affected me as a victim?

If you are a victim of a crime you can make a victim personal statement. This will give you the opportunity to say how you have been affected by the crime. The victim personal statement in prepared in advance, usually with help from the police officer who has dealt with your case. They are given to the court and can be taken into account when the sentence is decided. A victim personal statement should say, in your own words, how the crime has affected you, be it emotionally, mentally, financially, physically or in any other way. It should express legitimate concerns and state if you intend to seek compensation. If the case involves the death of a victim, their family can make the victim personal statement.

Will you tell me if you change or drop the charges?

Of course we will. Sometimes information will be discovered that we did not know when we made the decision to charge the defendant that may mean we have to change the way we are prosecuting the case or that may mean we cannot continue. If that happens we will write to you and explain what has happened and why. In some very serious cases, the lawyer who has made the decision will offer to meet with you and explain the legal processes behind the decision in person.

If you drop a case where I am a victim or decide not to charge someone, can I ask you to change your decision?

On 5 June 2013, the CPS launched a scheme called the Victims' Right to Review, which makes it easier for victims to seek a review of a CPS decision not to bring charges or to terminate proceedings.  For further information about the Victims' Right to Review Scheme, click here. To make a request under the Victims' Right to Review scheme for a case prosecuted by CPS East Midlands, see the details on our Contacts page.