Information for young people
What happens when you witness a crime?
Jerome saw a robbery taking place at a local shop.
"It could happen to you."
It was just an ordinary day at the corner shop… when suddenly everything changed.
The robbery was witnessed by Jerome.
"We've done nothing wrong!"
"We're just out for a run"
Pressure from his girlfriend
Being a victim or a witness to a crime can be tough.
"Should I tell? What do I do?"
The victim needs Jerome's help
"I can't be sure what they look like."
The Prosecutor makes her decision
"We need evidence!"
"You need another witness."
"There isn't enough evidence for a conviction."
The police are not responsible for making the decision to prosecute the defendant. That decision is made by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The Prosecutor works for the CPS.
The reluctant witness
"I don't know what is going to happen, mum. I'm worried about what will happen to me if I tell what I saw."
Mum took Jerome to the police station to report the robbery.
"Let's see what they can do to help."
"OK, I'll tell the police what I saw."
Talking it over
Jerome meets the police officer.
The police will tell you about what will happen if you have to go to court. Let them know if you need extra help.
There are things that can make giving evidence easier. These are called 'special measures' and can be applied for by the prosecutor and - if appropriate - granted by the court.
Special measures include a range of provisions to support victims and witnesses (other than the accused) to give their best evidence and are intended to help reduce some of the anxiety of attending court. They include: giving evidence behind a screen; giving evidence "in private" by clearing the courtroom of members of the public; removal of wigs and gowns by judges and lawyers; giving evidence by a live television link from a room outside the courtroom; use of video-recorded evidence-in-chief (which is the witness' main evidence); use of pre-recorded cross-examination (where the witness is questioned by lawyers for bioth sides, but it is recorded, not 'live' in the court); use of intermediaries (specially trained people) to help victims understand and answer questions; and, the provision of aids to communication by means of a computer or other device.
It may also be possible to put arrangements in place to:
- Use a door other than the main entrance to go in to and leave the court building and
- Use a waiting room not used by the defendant and their family and friends.
The Court Based Witness Service also provides people at court who can help you on the day you give evidence.
Witness Service volunteers are located in the victim and witness room at court and give you with practical and emotional support. They will also tell you who else can help you.
The Court Based Witness Service volunteer who knows the building and court procedures will be there to help you on the day and sometimes before the trial if you visited the court in advance. It may be possible for members of your family to be there too, if they aren't involved in the case.
You should let the CPS advocate know if you need extra help.
The video interview
For any witness under 18, they will normally give their evidence-in-chief by a video recorded interview. So your evidence of what happened to you or what you saw will be recorded on a DVD and this will be played in court as your evidence.
"I'm arresting you for…"
Support for Jerome
A witness service volunteer who knows the building and court procedures will be there to help you before the trial and on the day. It may be possible for members of your family to be there too.
The Court Based Witness Service volunteer who knows the building and court procedures will be there to help you on the day and sometimes before the trial if you visited the court in advance. It may be possible for members of your family to be there too, if they aren’t involved in the case.
"Can my Mum come?"
"Yes, she isn't a witness, so she can sit with you before you give your evidence."
Keeping in touch
"We've got a date for the trial."
"I can arrange for you to look around the court before then if you think it would help."
The court visit
The court visit will let you see where everyone sits in the courtroom, and you can find out what happens when you give evidence.
Jerome in the live link room
When your DVD is played, you will sit in a room with a TV screen and a camera.
Someone will be in the room with you.
Jerome meets the lawyer
We will try to make sure you meet the lawyer for the prosecution. If you are at the Crown Court, the prosecutor will usually be wearing a wig and a gown.
"What do I do if I don't understand the question?"
"Say you don't understand. If I think the defence lawyer is being too aggressive when asking you questions, I will intervene and ask the magistrate or judge to do something about it."
What might happen when Jerome goes to court?
The defendant might:
- Plead guilty
- Plead not guilty
- Be found guilty
- Be found not guilty
If the defendant pleads guilty, Jerome will not have to give evidence
If the defendant pleads not guilty, Jerome will have to go to court to give evidence
If the magistrates or jury are sure that the defendant did commit the crime, the defendant will be found guilty
If the magistrates or jury decide that there is not enough evidence for them to be sure that the defendant did the crime, they will be found not guilty
Will Jerome's name be in the newspaper?
There is an automatic restriction on reporting information that identifies or is likely to identify any person under the age of 18 who is concerned in youth court proceedings as a victim, witness or defendant. Therefore the court will usually make an order that your name will not appear in the newspapers when your case is reported.
"I am making an order that the names of the young witnesses should not be published."
"Thank you so much for coming to court to be a witness."
"It wasn't easy, but I'm glad I did it."