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What Happens Before a Court Appearance?

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 16 Sep 2017 | comments*Discuss
Right In Court Rights As A Victim Rights

If you are summoned to court as a witness or defendant you have a number of rights under the law.

If you are a Witness

As a witness you have a number of rights that include:
  • The right to see the courtroom before the trial begins. The Witness Service that is run by Victim Support can arrange this. The can be contacted on: 020 7735 9166.
  • The right to bring someone with you to court. Note that you will need to inform the Central Criminal Court (also known as the Old Bailey) in advance if you are bringing someone to court with you.
  • The right to wait in a separate area of the court from the rest of the people involved in your case.
  • The right to refresh your memory of the statement you gave to the police. A representative of the Crown Prosecution Service will be able to make your statement available to read before you enter the court to give your evidence.
  • The right to take your oath on a holy book of your choice, or to affirm your oath without a holy book.

All witnesses have a right to be protected against any intimidation as a consequence of them offering their testimony in court. If you feel that you may suffer intimidation from the defendant in your case, you have the right to apply to give your evidence as a written statement.

If you are a Defendant

Going to court as a defendant means you also have a number of rights that the courts and the police must abide by. These include:
  • The right to have any unused evidence disclosed to you before the trial begins. This is any material that the prosecution will not be using in the trial you are about to take part in.
  • The right to cross-examine any witness that the prosecution has bought into court to support their case against you.
  • The right to object to any written statements being read out in court unless you or your solicitor have already been given copies in advance.
  • The right to enter the witness box to defend your case.
  • The right to call any witness in your defence.

Your Right to Privacy

A code of practice now exists developed by the Press Complaints Commission that aims to ensure that your privacy rights are protected when you go to court. The code of practice states that anyone under the age of 16 should not have their identity revealed by the press if the case involves a sexual offence.

Your Right to Compensation

The Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 gives the courts the right to issue an order that compels a defendant that is found guilty to pay compensation to their victim.

If you are a victim of crime you also have the right to sue a defendant in a case you are involved with even if they are found not guilty by the criminal court. You can claim compensation if:

  • You have been injured physically or psychologically as a consequence of a violent crime.
  • You are the partner, parent, wife or child of a person who has died as the result of a violent crime.
  • If you were witness to a violent crime and later suffered psychological injury.

You can apply for criminal injuries compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority by calling: 0800 358 3601. If you live in Northern Ireland you claim will be handled by the Compensation Agency Northern Ireland. Contact them on: 028 90 2499 44.

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[Add a Comment]
I am due in court as There is already a claim against me granted in civil case for damages. But I do not own any property or assests to that value.If I do not attend the court what will happen?
Bertie - 16-Sep-17 @ 10:52 PM
@Nikki - I wouldn't worry, it's not you they are after it is the person that has stolen the vehicle.
Tom - 7-Feb-17 @ 2:35 PM
I have to go to court cause I was a witness of a stolen vehicle I was in the vehicle and didn't know t was stolen this happen last year and the court is this year and I have no way there the cop that called me saying he would send me a letter said I'm not in trouble but they need me cause I was there but I'm still scared and afraid I might go to jail even through he said I'm not in in trouble
Nikki - 7-Feb-17 @ 7:08 AM
I have been summoned as a witness for the prosecution.However they have changed the date FOUR times and now I cannot go as I have to go back to work on Monday.Is there an application I can make?I have super important matters to deal with at work and so cannot appear.The summons is now out of date.I have been advised to go to the county in the morning and make an application to be excused.
Jen - 11-Aug-16 @ 5:40 PM
My friend has a trial in the court for not having a proper car insurance. He put my name as a witness because I helped him to buy his insurance. The problem is when I asked what insurance did he need, he said a domestic and pleasure only, so I've done it. Unfortunately they stopped him after he had just delivered a pizza to someone. He went to help friends for delivery that night. So he ended up without proper insurance. Now he wants me to be his witness and put my name for his trial but I don't want to go there as I think I can't help him. Will I be fined or will I have any problem if I don't show up in the court? I have never received a witness notice from the court, it's only my friend who put my name as his witness.
Chris - 30-Jun-16 @ 11:11 PM
Hi, My daughter and i went to court trying to get access to her children and my grandchikdren. The judge ordered reports to be done and back to court in 6 weeks. We received copies of tge report the day before we went to court. The reports were very inaccurate and statements were made on things i did mot say and the same on my daughters report while her ex partnere report was glowing. I spoke to my lawyer who was not pleased that i said there was a number of lies in the report. Our conversation became very stressed and feel that i am now defending myself from the reporter. It seems that the reporters word is so strong that the judge will go with the report. I am not sure if anyobe knows what my daughters ex partner was like abd the things my daughter went through wigh this man because although he has stopped us seeing the children through lies that we have to defend we have been told that the case is mot about what went on but on where we are now. I feel that the reporter knows nothing about what he did to my daughter and that he is using the children to hurt us, how coukd she know if we have not had an oppertunity to tell our story. My daughters ex partner told us he would take the children from my daughter and me and we would never see them again and that he was smarter than the law and to date he certainly is smarter than the law. I am very anxious about this whole thing and because of that my mind goes blank and i cant talk for nervs. I had a phone call with my lawyer about the report and tge way she spoje to me was vety degrading and when i asked a question at the ebd of the call she thought something was wrong with the line and hung up on me. I think my lawyer gets frustrated with me because of my inability to keep calm and explain my self properly. I am so tired and stressed as this has been dragging on for two years. Is there soneone that can accompany me to visits with my lawyer and any other legal person i need to deal with just so that i can have support for being so nervous and un able to speak properly and i can't remember half of the conversation. I
Sandra - 25-Feb-16 @ 5:50 PM
hi me and my partner had argument accidentally he hitted me with his head i was so angry I thought he did it on purpose and called the police on him we have a child together i also wrote a letter now the case is gone to court nd he plead not guilty but they making be a witness and i dont want to as I already told them I want to drop the charges what should i do? and what will happen if i dont attend to court? or tell them i lied and it was accident as i was angry? please help?
ayan - 28-Nov-15 @ 5:34 PM
Hi I'm up at court next week but it was only for breech of the peace and assault I don't know what will happen and plus it my first time I've got a girlfriend at home in tears and I want to see her and she wants to drop the charges by the way I didn't assaulted my best mate. I done this all when I was drunk and can't remember anything.
jc - 16-Sep-15 @ 12:34 AM
I am due in court for a civil trial on 1st October (as I pleaded not guilty during the original case in July), but have not yet received a letter confirming the date. Is this normal?
Juniper - 10-Sep-15 @ 4:05 PM
Flower - Your Question:
Hi my partners going up for a number of domestic violence chargers against me I have 9yr old 3yr old n 3munfz old boyz to care for due to babysitting problems n travel do I have to attend plus I've asked police that I do not want go any further BT they will still go ahead n try n push charges do I have to attend court n give evidence what happens if I don't want to proceed cause I still love my partner n I'm finding it hard to cope without him I know I sposed to be the victim in this BT itz even harder for me when my partners lockd up n for how long I don't know I wish it to just end I feel dat itz all my fault and want him to kum home I miss him to much,plez help me.

Our Response:
Firstly, I have included an article What Will Happen if I Don't Turn Up at Court? Link here. The issue is that you have been a victim of domestic violence and despite you wishing to drop the charges the objective of the CPS is to uphold the safety of the victim. The safety and physical and emotional well-being of children are also critical issues for those making decisions in cases of domestic violence. You may feel as though you need to speak to someone directly, therefore I have included a link to Women's Aid here which may help you to further get the help and advice you need. You can also read the CPS Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Domestic Violence, here which I hope will help put your situation into context.
CourtroomAdvice - 7-Sep-15 @ 10:26 AM
Hi my partners going up for a number of domestic violence chargers against me I have 9yr old 3yr old n 3munfz old boyz to care for due to babysitting problems n travel do I have to attend plus I've asked police that I do not want go any further BT they will still go ahead n try n push charges do I have to attend court n give evidence what happens if I don't want to proceed cause I still love my partner n I'm finding it hard to cope without him I know I sposed to be the victim in this BT itz even harder for me when my partners lockd up n for how long I don't know I wish it to just end i feel dat itz all my fault and want him to kum home i miss him to much,plez help me.
Flower - 4-Sep-15 @ 6:06 AM
@kate - please see the link to our partner article: What Will Happen if I Don't Turn Up at Court? Link here which should answer your question.
CourtroomAdvice - 14-Jul-15 @ 12:07 PM
hi there me and my bf had a row I was going upstairs and he followed me and held me on the stairs I struggled and hit my head anywY he called the police thinking they would get me out of his house but they arrested him I gave a statement not knowing I would be summon to court what shall I do as I don't want to go I am 30 weeks pregnant and at the court date will be breast feeding my new son
kate - 11-Jul-15 @ 11:12 AM
@Betty - You can ring Women's Aid which has a freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. They will give you confidential advice. It's probably worth talking to someone about your decision, as if he has abused you before, then you could be in danger in the future. However, it is also up to the CPS whether it decides to go ahead with prosecution regardless of whether you change your mind or not. I hope this helps.
CourtroomAdvice - 1-Dec-14 @ 10:31 AM
hello iam a victim off abuse as my patner was bused to me , iam waiting to go crown court i had to do other stament beacuse they want charge him for rape but in my eyes i dont see it as rape but they do what can i do i dont want to go threw with it as rape but there other stuff to plz help me i feel like droping all off it i feeel so sad cause i love him still but he been in side befor for buse in his pass
betty - 28-Nov-14 @ 4:16 PM
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