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Court proceedings


If you have given a statement for a case then there is always the possibility that you will have to attend court as a witness if the accused pleads "Not Guilty". You will be called as a witness in most cases if you are the complainant or if the defence want to question you about the issues contained in your statement. This should have been pointed out and explained to you at the time you gave the statement.


If you are a witness then you should speak to the officer in the case, as they may know when the court date is, or the Witness Liaison Department. Alternatively, you can telephone the court and ask them and they should be able to tell you the date of the next hearing.

If you are the accused then contact your solicitor or the court.


The only witnesses who will be called are those witnesses whose evidence cannot be agreed between the defence and the prosecution. In the majority of cases, the officer in the case will be at court.


Whilst it is possible that the accused will also be outside the court room, it does not follow that you have to sit in the same area. Many courts have large communal areas and will announce which case over a tannoy so that if you wish you can sit away from the accused. Alternatively, speak to the court usher and tell them where you are going to be.

At most courts there will also be the Witness Service/Victim Support who will be able to provide a separate room for you if you do not want to sit in the communal area. It is perfectly understandable that you would not want to sit outside the court with the accused in your case.

Alternatively you can contact the officer in the case who may be able to make some arrangements for you.


No, if you are a witness or a complainant in a case then you do not need a solicitor. You are simply telling the court what you saw/what happened etc. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecutes the case on behalf of the Lord Advocate and the accused will have a solicitor to represent them but you do not need any legal representation.


No, you do not need to bring anything to court other than yourself.

When you arrive at court on the day, go and find the Victim Support Witness Service and they may be able to put your mind at rest as for many people giving evidence can be a daunting prospect.


Many cases are listed for trial at Crown Court without a court room and it means the witnesses may have to wait around at the Court all day waiting for their case to be allocated to a court room.

To be on standby at court means that you do not have to be at the court all day waiting for your case to be allocated a court room. You can stay at work/home until your case is ready to be heard. You must not be too far away and must be contactable by phone and ready to go the court straight away if necessary.

You would need to check with the Court as to whether you could be on standby. If you are contactable by phone and not too far away from the court then there should be no reason why you could not be on standby.

Standby is becoming a more popular option as many witnesses work and cannot take the time off work to sit and wait at court.


Yes. Most courts will have a Witness Service and if you telephone them in advance of the case they will arrange for you to look at a courtroom. It probably will not be exactly the same courtroom that you will have to give evidence in, but they are all very similar.

Visiting the court beforehand does help some people feel less intimidated about giving evidence. The unknown can be a lot more scary. Knowing where everyone sits in the court room and who they all are will help put you at ease.


Yes you can. Witness Care Units/Victim Information Advice services have been set up nationally. Each Unit will have witness liaison officers who will keep witnesses informed of how the case is progressing.

It may be a few weeks before the accused is sentenced (if found/pleaded guilty) because often the Probation Service (and other bodies) are required to do a pre-sentence report which gives the court some advice on the sentencing.


It is the discretion of the court as to whether it awards compensation. If the offender is given a custodial sentence then it is unlikely that you will receive any compensation. The compensation form should be sent out to you before the court proceedings.

If you were the victim of a violent crime then you may be eligible for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), Freephone: 03000 033 601 . However if you have not co-operated with the police during the course of the investigation it is unlikely that you will receive any compensation from the CICA.


If you are a witness and you do not go to court, a number of things could happen.

Firstly, the case could be thrown out of court. Secondly, the court could adjourn the proceedings so that a witness citation is served on you. If you then fail to attend the next hearing after having a witness citation served on you, then you could be arrested.

If you have any fears or concerns about attending court it would be best if you contacted your local victim support unit or witness care unit.


There are a number of measures that can be used for any vulnerable or intimidated witness. Some people are automatically classed as vulnerable, for example:

  • Children under the age of 16 at the time of giving evidence.
  • Any person suffering from a mental disorder.
  • Any person suffering from a learning disability.
  • Any person who is physically disabled.
  • Any witness whose evidence is likely to be diminished through fear or distress.

The police have the responsibility of notifying the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) at the earliest possible stage of any measures that may be required. The COPFS will then make an application to the Court for a Special Measures and the Court will decide if the measures would improve the quality of the witness's evidence.

The possible special measures are:

  • Screening the witness from the accused.
  • Giving evidence through a live link.
  • Removal of wigs and gowns.
  • Use of communication aids.
  • Video recording of interview used as evidence.


When you first arrive at court the best thing to do is to find the Victim Support Witness Service desk or office. They have a list of all witnesses due at court on that day. They will be able to tell you which courtroom to attend, where the canteen is and where you might find the officer in the case.

You must also book in at reception so the court know that you are present. Having your citation ready would be helpful as reference numbers and name are contained on this, making it easier to register your attendance.


Although it was not you that has been stopped by the police, you must go to court. This is to make a statutory declaration (basically a sworn statement) to that effect. The court will then adjourn the matter back to the police to make further enquiries.

It is important that you attend court otherwise a warrant will be issued. If you cannot make it on the day in question then contact the court to advise them.


If you have missed a court date then a warrant will be issued for your arrest. It is advisable to contact your solicitor as soon as possible and explain the circumstances for same.


If you are a defendant then it is always advisable to get legal advice. If you do not have a solicitor then there will always be a duty solicitor in most courts.

If you are appearing as a witness at court then you do not need a solicitor.


Yes, as long as the verdict was given in open court you can find out the result of a case (in Sheriff and JP courts). There may be some time limit involved in when the courts will be able to pass this information on due to practical difficulties, i.e. if you ring up 6 months after the court date they may not be willing/able to look that far back for the result.

If the case is a high profile one then the procedure may differ and there will be stricter restrictions on cases involving juveniles.

If you wish to find out a court case result you will need to contact the relevant court.

Please see the website in Related Information to find the relevant court contact details.


Whilst there is no legal requirement to give a witness statement to the police, there is a moral duty on each of us to help the police with their enquiries. 

If you have given a statement to the police, there is a possibility that you may have to attend court as a witness, this should be explained to you by the person taking your statement and is also explained on the witness statement, which you should read prior to signing. 

For many, the prospect of giving a statement and possibly appearing in court can be daunting. However, the police and courts have procedures in place to help and support witnesses. 

However, it must be noted that the Court has the power to order a person to attend court to give evidence.

Please see the links in Related Information for more details. 


The standard requirement for interpreters in Criminal proceedings is that those working in courts and police stations should be registered with one of the recommended registers ie the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) for non-English spoken languages, or with the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) for communicating with deaf and deafblind people.


The prison service has a prisoner location service that may be able to assist you. Your details will be passed to the prisoner and if they consent then their whereabouts will be disclosed to you. See the link in related information for more details on how to do this.