What Happens Before a Court Appearance?
If you are summoned to court as a witness or defendant you have a number of rights under the law.
If you are a WitnessAs 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 DefendantGoing 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 PrivacyA 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 CompensationThe 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.