Witness Names and Addresses

Updated 2 August 2018|Legal Guidance

Introduction

The CPS is committed to the proper care and treatment of witnesses.

The general requirement is that a witness at the beginning of his or her evidence is asked to state his or her full name.

Unless it is necessary for evidential purposes, witnesses should not be required to disclose their addresses in open court. Where his or her address is relevant, the witness may choose to write it down for the record. See rule 25.11 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Rules.

Specific Guidance

Police practice when taking written statements under Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967

The Police will:

  • Record the witness' name and address on the back of the first page of the original statement (MG11);
  • Ensure that the witness' address is not inadvertently or without good reason revealed in the body of the statement or in any other document which might be revealed to the defence, for example, receipt for repairs, medical reports, etc;
  • Ensure that the addresses of witnesses are not on the typed copies of witness statements;
  • Supply the CPS with a separate list of witnesses' names and addresses on form MG9.

Prosecutors are reminded that the address of the witness should be redacted if the address is set out in the body of the statement without good reason.

Prosecutors should notify the Departmental Security Unit where there has been an unauthorised disclosure.

Disclosure/non-disclosure of witnesses' addresses

As a general rule you must ensure that witnesses' addresses are not disclosed.

There will, however, be cases where the address of a witness will be material for evidential purposes, for example:

  • A witness whose house has been burgled;
  • A witness who sees an assault from a window overlooking a street.

In such cases, it will be difficult to conceal a witness' address. However, care must be exercised where the safety of the witness is believed to be at risk.

It is possible to withhold some or all of the evidence if the prosecutor is of the opinion that full disclosure would lead to a witness being intimidated or some other interference with the course of justice. In those circumstances, the prosecutor should provide a summary of the circumstances of the offence instead. See rule 8.3 of the Criminal Procedure Rules; If such a decision is made, the defence must be notified in writing that certain advance information is being withheld and the file endorsed with the reasons, see Initial Details of the Prosecution Case (Advance Information).

Except where it is clear that the defence already knows the address of a witness, the police must be informed before disclosure of the address of a witness takes place, so that they can notify the witness.

Anonymity

See the Director's Guidance on Witness Anonymity

Defence Request to Interview Witnesses

You may receive a request from the defence to interview witnesses, in which case you should refer to Legal Guidance 'Interviewing Witnesses for the other side'.

Requests by the Defence for the Disclosure of Witnesses' Addresses for Evidential Reasons

Requests by the defence for disclosure of a witness address for evidential reasons should be in writing and contain reasons relevant to the particular case. Each request for disclosure should be dealt with by an experienced lawyer or Head of Unit.

Each request must be dealt with on its merits, taking into account all the circumstances of the case. The police must be consulted so that they can consider the vulnerability of the witness. If a decision is taken to disclose the address, the police must be informed so that the witness can be advised accordingly.

If a decision is taken not to disclose the address and the defence do not accept this decision, they must apply to the court if they still require the address.

If the defence apply to the court, sufficient notice should be given so that the police officer in the case can attend and give evidence as to why the address should not be disclosed.

If the court orders disclosures of the witness' address, the officer will be aware of the situation and should inform the witness of the court's decision.