Supporting victims and witnesses

WitnessYou will have read on our Going to court page that London prosecutors have certain responsibilities to support victims and witnesses, including communicating our legal decisions and, where circumstances permit, meeting with you at court.

However, there are two major networks in London that victims and witnesses will deal with throughout the court process, and at court if you need to attend. These are Witness Care Units and the Witness Service.

Witness Care Units are run by the police, and one of their responsibilities is to be the main contact between you and the CPS. The Witness Service is run by Victim Support, a voluntary organisation to assist victims and witnesses through the criminal justice system. The service provides support at court. Please scroll down for more information.

Witness Care Units

Depending on your case, the Witness Care Unit (WCU) will be from either the British Transport Police, Metropolitan Police Service or the City of London Police (see links below). Police Witness Care Officers (WCO) will carry out a full needs assessment to identify what support you need to enable you to attend court.

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

  • childcare arrangements
  • organising transport
  • medical problems or disabilities
  • language difficulties
  • concerns over intimidation
  • write to your employers if necessary.

(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).

The WCO will co-ordinate the support needed to address these concerns and assist you in attending court. Before the day of the hearing you will be offered the opportunity to take part in a pre-court visit, which includes being shown round an empty courtroom and finding out more about what to expect on the day.

For your local Witness Care Unit contact the relevant police service below:

Citizens Advice Witness Service

The Citizens Advice Witness Service offers free and independent support for witnesses in every criminal courts in England and Wales. Trained volunteers provide practical information about the court process, as well as emotional support to help witnesses feel more confident when giving evidence.

Family and friends who are attending court can get help too, as well as children. The Witness Service supports both prosecution and defence witnesses.

Next page: Special measures