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Witness Expenses and Allowances

Principle

The CPS is responsible for paying allowances and expenses to witnesses who are called to give evidence in prosecutions conducted by the Service.

The CPS aims to pay 100% of correctly completed witness expense claims within 10 working days of receipt.

Witness expenses are calculated, approved and paid by the National Finance Business Centre, Wakefield (NFBC).

In a proportion of cases, the NFBC will ask for a copy of the List of Witnesses to Attend Court (LWAC) form to be submitted for auditing and verification purposes. If the CPS is to meet its target for the timely payment of witness expenses, it is vital that the accurately completed copy of the LWAC is submitted to the NFBC in a timely manner when requested.

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Guidance

The Regulations

Allowances and expenses payable to prosecution witnesses attending court are governed by Regulations made by the Attorney General (the Regulations) (The Crown Prosecution Service (Witnesses' etc. Allowances) Regulations 1988), as amended from time to time.

Classes of Witnesses

There are four classes of witnesses:

  • ordinary;
  • professional;
  • experts; and
  • Interpreters.

Allowances and expenses governed by the Regulations are:

  • those payable to ordinary and professional witnesses; and
  • overnight allowances and travelling expenses payable to expert witnesses and interpreters.

Allowances, expenses and fees not governed by the Regulations are:

  • fees for expert witnesses;
  • fees and expenses for interpreters; and
  • those payable to people reasonably attending court, but not as witnesses, for example, parents of child witnesses, persons assisting people with disabilities, members of victim's family.

People who cannot be paid

No allowances, expenses or fees can be paid to:

  • police officers (from Forces in England and Wales) attending in their official capacity;
  • prison officers attending in their official capacity;
  • prisoner witnesses brought to court in custody (from within the jurisdiction); and
  • witnesses who attend court but refuse to give evidence.

Payments by the CPS are limited to expenses, allowances and fees incurred by attendance at court or elsewhere in connection with giving evidence. This includes attendance not specifically to give evidence, such as a visit made for familiarisation purposes.

Giving Evidence

Witnesses who attend to give evidence will be paid whether or not they actually give evidence. There is only one exception. A witness who attends but refuses to give evidence is not entitled to be paid. This is very unusual and the fact of such refusal should be noted prominently on the List of Witnesses to Attend Court (LWAC) form. A claim form should not be given to the witness in these circumstances, unless there are exceptional circumstances which make it appropriate to do so. These should be explained by the CPS court representative, in a note affixed to the LWAC form.

Estimating Expense Claims for Costs Applications

Crown prosecutors and caseworkers should not attempt to calculate or confirm expense claims with the witness. This function is performed by the NFBC.

They will, however, need to be able to estimate witness expenses, so that applications for costs against convicted defendants can be properly assessed. Therefore, you should ask witnesses for an indication of the expenses they will claim. The estimated claim figure should be included in the total estimate of costs incurred.

For current rates (allowances), see:

Do not include in your estimate of witness expenses any sum indicated by a witness which exceeds the maximum amount payable under the Regulations.

Ordinary Witnesses

Witnesses may receive compensation for:

  • travelling expenses
  • money spent on refreshments and meals
  • financial loss (e.g. loss of earnings)
  • other expense incurred (e.g. childcare

NB: There are limits on the amounts payable:

  • bus and train fares (standard fare) are normally repaid in full;
  • travel by bicycle is paid at 20p per mile;
  • travel by motor vehicle is paid at a rate per mile;
  • a higher rate per mile may be paid if it is necessary, as opposed to just convenient, to use a private motor vehicle;
  • taxi fares are allowed where this was the only form of transport available or if a witness is disabled or infirm.
  • set limits apply to refreshments and meals;
  • maximum daily amounts apply to loss of earnings and other financial losses.

Professional Witnesses

These (doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, lawyers, accountants) may receive:

  • either a compensatory allowance;
  • or a sum to reimburse the cost of employing a locum.

Both have upper limits.

Subsistence allowance is not payable, except when an overnight stay is necessary.

Travelling expenses are payable.

Expert Witnesses

These will receive a fee. The fee should, wherever possible, be agreed in advance. The fee is discretionary, but see the scales of guidance.

Subsistence allowance is not payable, except when an overnight stay is necessary.

Travelling expenses are payable.

Interpreters

Interpreters will receive a fee based on a fixed hourly rate.

Subsistence allowance is not payable, except when an overnight stay is necessary.

Travelling expenses are payable.

Other People attending Court

Other people, in certain circumstances, may receive allowances just like ordinary witnesses. Examples are:

  • parents accompanying child witnesses;
  • people accompanying elderly or infirm witnesses.
  • witnesses and their companions attending court for the purposes of familiarisation visits.

Police officers, prison officers and prisoners in custody will not receive allowances.

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Procedure

Provision of Claim Forms: Magistrates' Courts

Witnesses attending magistrates' court hearings will normally have received a witness expense claim form together with their warning notice. The claim form should have been accompanied by a "Current Rates" leaflet, giving information on the maximum amounts claimable.

Some witnesses may have lost their form; others may have been called too late for a warning notice, and thus a claim form may not been served. A supply of claim forms should, therefore, be available in the operational unit and at the court building.

Before sending or handing a claim form to a witness, ensure that the appropriate List of Witnesses to Attend Court (LWAC) reference number is entered on it as well as the full name and address of the witness. This is important and should be checked for accuracy with the witness, as it will be used by the Service Centre to despatch payment. The address must be full and clear, including the postcode, or it may result in payment or postal delivery being delayed, and further queries raised. Ensure that the "Current Rates" leaflet accompanies the expense claim form provided to the witness.

Provision of Claim Forms: Crown Courts

There is no approved system for advance distribution of witness expense claim forms to witnesses. Caseworkers attending at the Crown Court are responsible for supplying claim forms to witnesses. This is usually done shortly after their arrival, but can be done after the witness has given evidence and is being released.

Before handing a claim form to a witness, ensure that the witness's name and full address are clearly written on it, together with the LWAC reference number. This is important and should be checked for accuracy with the witness, as it will be used to despatch payment. The address must be full and clear, including the postcode, or it may result in payment or postal delivery being delayed and further queries raised. Ensure that the "Current Rates" leaflet accompanies the expense claim form handed to the witness.

Claim forms are not given to expert witnesses. They should send an invoice for their fees and expenses to the CPS office that instructed them.

Return of Claim Forms

The claim form tells witnesses to complete it at the end of the case. It also tells them to send the completed form to the relevant NFBC, using the prepaid envelope provided.

Crown prosecutors and caseworkers should not offer, or agree, to receive and forward claims to the NFBC on behalf of the witness. Witnesses should be asked to use the pre-paid envelope provided to submit their claim.

Release Times

The time of release of every witness must be recorded on the file copy LWAC. Witnesses are usually released, if recall is not likely, at the end of their evidence. Normally you should record the actual time of release on the LWAC. It may affect the amount of expenses to which they are entitled.

Use your discretion to enter a later time in appropriate circumstances, such as:

  • a complainant who needs to stay to seek a compensation order;
  • a witness required to remain to advise on defence evidence;
  • a witness sharing transport with other witnesses whose evidence is not completed; or
  • a witness giving appropriate support to another.

As soon as the hearing is over, check that you have entered a release time for each witness on the LWAC. If a witness has failed to attend, mark that on the LWAC. Add any other explanatory notes relating to witnesses attendance to the form, for the assistance of the Service Centre. Then sign and date it and tag it carefully into the file. Where anything unusual has occurred relating to a witness's attendance, which may have a bearing on expenses payment, the explanatory notes added to the LWAC should be copied to the NFBC by the Caseworker.

Advance Payments

CPS Area staff can request a cheque or payable order payment or issue a travel warrant to a witness who needs an advance to pay for their journey to or from court. The Cashier will need to be provided with confirmation of the witness's identify, the case name and LWAC number to process an advance payment.

If there will not be enough time to send such a payment or travel warrant, the witness can contact their nearest police station. The police may provide a cash advance or travel warrant. If time permits, the police may first want confirmation from the CPS that the witness is required to attend court. Be prepared to give confirmation in appropriate cases.

Advance payments from police stations are for real emergencies only. Any cash advanced must be limited to the amount needed for the journey to, or home from, court. Under no circumstances should you attempt to calculate and pay the full allowances due to a witness, even where the witness requests this.

Discretion to Exceed Allowances

There is a discretion, under the Regulations, to pay more than the entitlement.

This should only be used in exceptional circumstances. Authority of the NFBC, Chief Crown Prosecutor (CPS London Legal Directors) or designated officer for this purpose, with the necessary delegated financial authority must be obtained before such a payment is made.

Reasons for agreeing the payment must be noted on the claim form.

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