Witness Care Units

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire

Witness Care Officers for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire work within the joint Administration of Justice (AOJ) Unit based at Hatfield Police Station in Hertfordshire.  

Witness Care Officers provide valuable information, practical help and support to victims and witnesses to help them through the sometimes difficult process of giving evidence in court. Needs assessments are conducted at the relevant stages as a case progresses through the court process, and the victims and witnesses are informed of progress of cases in an effective and timely manner.

By working along-side colleagues within the AOJ Unit, the aim is to ensure that the needs of the victims and witnesses are considered at all stages during the management of the case, to assist in the process of bringing offenders to justice. 

Carole Ward is the Head of the AOJ Unit and her aim is to provide the best service possible to victims and witnesses of crime.

Wendy Watts is the AOJ Unit Manager and Hazel Gourlay, Colin Jenkinson and Paul Knowles are the Team Leaders within the AOJ Unit with responsibility for witness care.

Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Witness Care Officers can be contacted as follows:

Telephone: 01707 806073 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, or 101 out of office hours

Email: BCHCriminalJustice@herts.pnn.police.uk

Thames Valley

On 01 June 2013, together with Thames Valley Police, Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) established one centralised Thames Valley Witness Care Unit (WCU), which is based at Reading Police Station.

The WCU provides one-to-one practical help and support to victims and witnesses to help them through the sometimes difficult process of giving evidence in court. Needs assessments are conducted at the relevant stages of the process, and the victims and witnesses are informed of progress of cases in an effective and timely manner.

Thames Valley Witness Care Officers can be contacted as follows:

Telephone: 01865 845 384 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, or 101 out of office hours.
Email: witnesscareunit.TV@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk

No Witness, No Justice

Image showing witness care officers at workThe WCUs have been set up as part of the No Witness, No Justice project, a joint police / CPS initiative that aims to ensure that witnesses are better informed, better prepared and better supported throughout any court proceedings.

Each WCU is staffed by a team of witness care officers, who provide a single point of contact for victims and witnesses throughout the life of a case; from when the defendant is charged through to sentencing.

Supporting Witnesses

Photo illustrating telephone support

Witness care officers carry out a full needs assessment with witnesses to identify what support they need to enable them to attend court.

The needs assessment is an opportunity for witnesses to flag any issues that may prevent them attending court to give evidence, such as difficulties over childcare or transport provision, medical problems or disabilities, language difficulties, or concerns over intimidation.  Some witnesses may simply need reassurance about what to expect when they get to the court. The witness care officer will co-ordinate the support needed to address these concerns and assist the witness in attending court.

They can explain how the criminal justice process works and what the witness can expect to happen when they go to court.  They can also provide relevant phone numbers for witnesses to call to find out information such as bus and train times so they can get to court, local child minding agencies, or even someone who can help look after the family pet for the day.  Where appropriate they can manage referrals to local agencies that are able to provide specialist assistance, such as Victim Support, women's refuge groups or interpreters.

Keeping Witnesses Informed

witness care officers at workThe witness care officers will provide updates about the progress of the case, and at the end of the trial make sure that victims and witnesses are told about the result and sentencing, thanked for their help with the case and offered further support if they need it.