Support at court
A lot of witnesses – adults and young people – feel nervous about going to court, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, you haven’t done anything wrong, and there will be people who are there to help and support you.
The Witness Service operates in every Crown Court, magistrates’ court, and youth court.
The Witness Service provides support to all children and young people going to court as a witness.
How will the Witness Service help me?
The Witness Service can help answer any questions you may have and will be there to support you before you go to court, throughout the trial and after the trial has finished if you want it. Before the trial, a member of the Witness Service may be able to visit you at home, school or somewhere that you feel safe. If you want to have a look around the court before you give your evidence, they can organise for you to have a pre-trial visit, so that you can see what it’s like.
On the day of the trial, a member of the Witness Service – usually the same person who has already visited you or who organised your pre-trial visit – will meet you at court. They will show you where to wait, and stay with you until it’s time to give your evidence. You are allowed to have someone with you – a witness supporter – when you go into court, or give your evidence via the TV link. If you would like the Witness Service member to be your supporter on the day, they will stay with you all the time you are giving evidence.
Who else can help me at court?
When it’s your turn to give evidence, someone can usually go with you into court, or into the room where you will give your evidence. It can be your witness supporter, but you may have someone else who has been helping you, and who you already know and trust. It may be a teacher, a young peoples’ worker, an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) or an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA); you can ask this person to support you at court, and they can wait with you in the waiting room. Your family members will be able to wait with you in the waiting room too.
Your witness supporter can help you decide if you want your family members to stay in the waiting room while you give your evidence in court. If any of your family members are witnesses in the case, they won’t be able to sit in the courtroom while you’re giving evidence.
If the court has agreed you can have an intermediary – someone who is there to help you understand the questions in court, and to make sure the court understands your answers – they can also wait with you in the waiting room and will be with you whilst you give your evidence.
What are ‘special measures’?
All young people can ask for help when they are giving evidence – this is written in the Code for Victims’ which explains what type of extra help you can get. This help is called special measures. As a witness it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident enough to tell the court everything you know or can remember about what has happened, and many young witnesses feel that special measures help them to do that.