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What Will Happen if I Don't Turn Up at Court?

By: Dave Howell - Updated: 12 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
What Will Happen If I Don't Turn Up At Court?

Q.

What would happen to me if I did not attend court as a witness? I have no evidence in the case and do not wish to go, it is only a minor case so could I get arrested or would I just get a fine?

(Mr ryan ward, 4 December 2008)

A.

The type of case you are involved in will determine what could happen if you don’t attend court as a witness. Even if you don’t think you have any evidence to give to the court, this isn’t your decision to make. The person that is bringing the court case will have a solicitor who will decide whether you should attend court to give whatever evidence they think you have that is pertinent to the case.

Generally speaking you should not have any serious consequences if you don’t actually attend the court. However, it may be the case that if you don’t attend and you have not informed the police or the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) that you won’t be attending, a witness summons may be issued. If this happens you are compelled to attend the court on the stated time and date. If you fail to attend the court after a witness summons has been issued, a warrant for your arrest would then be granted.

Also, making an excuse that you are ill for example is not good enough. You would have to produce a doctor’s medical certificate that states that you are not in a fit state to attend the court. If other events prevent you from attending court, you should let the court know as soon as possible. Depending on the seriousness of the case and how essential your evidence is, you may be excused attending.

Lastly, if you want to ensure that if you do not attend court you will not be prosecuted or arrested by the police, you can apply to the court for a decision on whether you do actually have to attend the court to give your evidence. Contact the court where the case is being heard for further details about how to make this application. Note that a fee is payable to gain this type of decision from the court. There is more information about going to court as a witness here and here. You will also find information on the HMCS (HM Courts Service) website including a number of leaflets that explain what to expect when being a witness in the different types of court you could be asked to attend.

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professor- Your Question:
My friend was charged with two sexual assaults on a woman and found guilty only on her evidence that was given by a theatrical emotional performance in the witness box. The only witness she called was her boyfriend who despite being 2 foot in front of her claimed he saw nothing but him walking past him with a plate of food.An appeal has been granted.She claimed that she was terrified of him and if she saw him would shake and cry.Three witnesses declared that she sat next to him on two occasions. Another witness said she saw nothing that he was being accused of. The later witness was not called to be a witness as were two other witnesses of the defendant. The defendant was told not to go on the witness stand as in the defense lawyers opinion no case to answer. The lawyer was drafted in at the last moment, as the original lady brief was not able to defend his case. No explanation was given. Four of his supporters and myself asked for this case to be adjourned as this brief had no knowledge of the case and he refused. He had trouble getting his electronic devices to work and muddled through the whole trial failing to ask or follow up important questions that would have halted the trial, as four important witnesses for the defendant would not be called. Is the defendant likely to win his appeal on this basis?

Our Response:
This is beyond our remit to advise. We could not possibly predict a court decision at appeal.
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Oct-17 @ 3:15 PM
My friend was charged with two sexual assaults on a woman and found guilty only on her evidence that was given by a theatrical emotional performance in the witness box. The only witness she called was her boyfriend who despite being 2 foot in front of her claimed he saw nothing but him walking past him with a plate of food. An appeal has been granted. She claimed that she was terrified of him and if she saw him would shake and cry. Three witnesses declared that she sat next to him on two occasions. Another witness said she saw nothing that he was being accused of. The later witness was not called to be a witness as were two other witnesses of the defendant. The defendant was told not to go on the witness stand as in the defense lawyers opinion no case to answer. The lawyer was drafted in at the last moment, as the original lady brief was not able to defend his case. No explanation was given. Four of his supporters and myself asked for this case to be adjourned as this brief had no knowledge of the case and he refused. He had trouble getting his electronic devices to work and muddled through the whole trial failing to ask or follow up important questions that would have halted the trial, as four important witnesses for the defendant would not be called. Is the defendant likely to win his appeal on this basis?
professor - 12-Oct-17 @ 9:26 PM
I've been summoned to appear in court tomorrow. Im definitely not going they can issue a warrant for my arrest if they wish. They still won't be able to make me speak when they take me there. I'm the witness of a cat accident but the man who it was lives near me and knows exactly where I live I'm scared for myself and my wife and young child on what he or his family will do. Who will pay for all the damages that I will incurre to my house and car? That will be me won't it? This is why I'm refusing to go.
Smithy - 9-Oct-17 @ 9:24 AM
Kd- Your Question:
Hi, I've been summonsed to crown court as a witness but am due to go on holiday. Is there anyone I can speak to to excuse myself from court? Do I speak to the court itself? Can the person I'm giving evidence for ask her solicitor to take me off as a witness? Also if I do not attend, what will happen after my arrest, can I be charged with something? Any help is greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
If you to have a prior commitment you can apply for your jury service to be deferred. You can only apply for this once and the deferment can only last for up to one year. You can also apply to be excluded from this current or future jury service. To do this you need to respond to the letter you were sent about your jury service from the Jury Central Summoning Bureau giving details about why you can’t be a member of a jury.
CourtroomAdvice - 31-Aug-17 @ 12:27 PM
Hi, I've been summonsed to crown court as a witness but am due to go on holiday. Is there anyone I can speak to to excuse myself from court? Do I speak to the court itself? Can the person I'm giving evidence for ask her solicitor to take me off as a witness? Also if I do not attend, what will happen after my arrest, can I be charged with something? Any help is greatly appreciated.
Kd - 29-Aug-17 @ 5:38 PM
I was due to appear in court on the 28th ov july 2017 but I email them to say I was on holiday and I even sent them proof ov holiday but they have issued a warrant of arrest for me
Betty - 7-Aug-17 @ 7:32 PM
Millsy - Your Question:
I haven't appeared as a witness for the second time as a witness to a drunken driver will I be prosecuted for not appearing???

Our Response:
As specified in the article, if you fail to attend the court after a witness summons has been issued, a warrant for your arrest would then be granted.
CourtroomAdvice - 31-Jul-17 @ 10:35 AM
I haven't appeared as a witness for the second time as a witness to a drunken driver will I be prosecuted for not appearing???
Millsy - 28-Jul-17 @ 10:08 AM
I spent 12 years employed as a police officer and was dismissed several months ago after a biased and corrupt misconduct hearing. Now, my force wants me to go to Crown Court to give evidence in a burglary case. As I don't want my name in the papers all over again (as this is severely affecting my employment prospects) where do I stand regarding a refusal to attend? Am I now treated as a normal public witness? Do I have the power to withdraw my statement?
BigG - 19-Jul-17 @ 1:23 PM
Macca - Your Question:
I have been advised I may need to attend a work tribunal. I have nothing yet apart from a solicitor saying it may happen. I am due to emigrate overseas next week. Can they expect me to return from half way around the world for a work tribunal. Would they accept a statement of events from me?

Our Response:
You should speak directly to your employer and/or solicitor regarding this. Much depends upon the reason for the tribunal.
CourtroomAdvice - 30-Jun-17 @ 3:14 PM
I have been advised I may need to attend a work tribunal. I have nothing yet apart from a solicitor saying it may happen. I am due to emigrate overseas next week. Can they expect me to return from half way around the world for a work tribunal. Would they accept a statement of events from me?
Macca - 27-Jun-17 @ 9:44 PM
i am a witness in a rape case I have been intimidated and harrased by police to act as a witness I am not going to court as it is at a local court and not at crown and it will have to go to crown
aba - 19-Jun-17 @ 1:22 PM
Hi, I am a victim/witness in a sexual assult case. I now live abroad and have spend 4.5 months in Mental Hospital for major depression. I am not fit to attend the court but am worried about consequences..I have informed the police/court of my situation and the judge requested letter from my doctor.What can happen to me?
Iz - 16-Jun-17 @ 3:38 PM
Twinklestar - Your Question:
Hi I am a witness against my husband ABH charges but I have retract my statement say that I lied in the first statement now they ask me to come to the trial day no summons but a letter from witness care centre to come to crown court as witness as my husband plea not guilty now if I don't go on the day what will happen my husband is still on remand I don't want to support the case against him any more but cps are still going ahead if I say to them I'm not coming the will summon me to come to court but at the moment the only send a letter to come and attend court and I said I will come. What will happen if I don't go to court on trial date? Plz help

Our Response:
The court could adjourn the proceedings so that a witness summons can be served on you, please see link here for more information.
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Jun-17 @ 1:51 PM
Hi I am a witness against my husband ABH charges but I have retract my statement say that I lied in the first statement now they ask me to come to the trial day no summons but a letter from witness care centre to come to crown court as witness as my husband plea not guilty now if I don't go on the day what will happen my husband is still on remand I don't want to support the case against him any more but cps are still going ahead if I say to them I'm not coming the will summon me to come to court but at the moment the only send a letter to come and attend court and I said I will come. What will happen if I don't go to court on trial date? Plz help
Twinklestar - 6-Jun-17 @ 9:04 AM
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I FAIL TO ATTEND COURT CASE? A WARRANT OF ARREST (WOA) OPEN AND EXTENED. NO NEW DATE FIX. WHAT DOES IT'S MEAN? WHAT OPTION I HAVE? WHAT CAN I DO TO TO ERASE/SETTLE/FREE OUT FROM WOA? HOW?
Zaq - 5-Apr-17 @ 8:04 PM
If you don't attend court as a witness does your name still get given in court along with your statement? Thank you x
Haras - 17-Mar-17 @ 8:17 AM
I have been summoned to court as a witness, in Malaga Spain.I did not 'witness' anything as such.My credit card was fraudulently used in Marbella in 2006, when I stayed in a 5* hotel.My bank paid back all monies taken and that I thought would have been it.I have tried to speak to the court - through a friend who speaks Spanish, I was informed that I had to attend.I have asked about claiming for flights and accommodation, told to seek advice from the Ministry of Justice.I emailed them and was told they can not help me.Why should I be 'out of pocket', miss work and pay, work are not happy about me missing time.I asked to give evidence through video link / written statement all discounted.Can you help?
Shaz - 25-Feb-17 @ 4:18 PM
Hello I was attacked last year in a shop by 1 guy with a knife his 2 friends were there and they didn't do much but they did participate it was just the one guy and he got sent down for it. But his mate wants to plea he case against me in court but I don't want to go court I want it done with now can I just not attend? I am the main witness buy I'm done with it all.
vectra91 - 19-Feb-17 @ 9:12 AM
If I don't attend civil court family law would I be in contempt what would happen?
Dek - 10-Feb-17 @ 11:47 PM
My housing are taking me to court over rent arrears by I paid it now do I have to attend the hearing
Claire - 4-Feb-17 @ 10:56 PM
Hi there.I was asked by an ex-childs social worker to make a statement about an incident.I made this statement to the social workers.The case, which there is more involved, is now going to court and I have been told by my social worker that I have to attend court to give evidence.However i have never given a formal statement to the police or CPS and never received a formal request to attend court, just the social worker telling me I have to go.my question is - I am petrified of attending and do I have to go or can I refuse until I receive a formal summons to go to court to give this evidence.Thanks in advance
fosterfoster - 12-Jan-17 @ 1:49 PM
Hi, iv been sent a letter from the courts saying im required to attend court as a witness against my husband for harassment without violence and harassment - put in fear of violence towards me. After long thinking, I have decided I just want the whole thing to be dropped and decided I don't want to give evidence. Can I do this and what would happen if I dont turn up on the day. Any advice will be much appreciated. Thank you.
cuddles - 9-Jan-17 @ 7:17 PM
What is the consequence of refusing to attend court as a witness?
lettie - 7-Jan-17 @ 1:48 PM
al - Your Question:
Hi I have recently been questioned under recording at my local housing office for benefit fraud I never meant to commit fraud I am working so is my partner they knew about me working but not my partner as she only works 12hrs a week they said I'd been over paid by £2000 do you think this will go to court as I've got children and I'm worried thanks

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot anticipate whether your case may go to court as much depends upon whether the investigation rules the fraud to be intentional. As a general rule; if the investigators find enough evidence to suggest you have committed benefit fraud, they 'may' refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if; the gross overpayment is £2,000 or over, or the overpayment is less than this but you have refused to accept an administration penalty or a caution. However, not all cases end in prosecution. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, the following factors will be taken into account before making a decision to take you to court. These include; how likely the prosecution is to be successful. This will often depend on the type and quality of the evidence that has been presented and/or the amount of any overpayment of benefit. It will also take into consideration if you would have been better off on another benefit rather than claiming fraudulently - if this is the case, prosecution is less likely. Whether you have previously committed benefit fraud and the seriousness of the fraud will be taken into account. If you used forged or stolen documents or made multiple claims, then there is likely to be a prosecution. Your age, health and personal circumstances and the extent to which you actually intended to defraud the benefit office will be considered, as will the the type of fraud. You can see more via the CAB link here which will explain the process further.
CourtroomAdvice - 4-Jan-17 @ 10:32 AM
Hi I have recently been questioned under recording at my local housing office for benefit fraud I never meant to commit fraud I am working so is my partner they knew about me working but not my partner as she only works 12hrs a week they said I'd been over paid by £2000 do you think this will go to court as I've got children and I'm worried thanks
al - 3-Jan-17 @ 10:24 AM
Hi I am a witness to a case I didn't see anything but heard something to do with the case. I have received a letter wanting me to confirm which dates I cannot attend crown court. I do not wish to go. What shall I do?
Rose - 19-Dec-16 @ 3:04 AM
Qusetion: I am defending myself in a case that's now three years old in the crown court, I have issued a court summons on someone to give evidence in the said trial. I strongly suspect that after recieving a letter for a date for mention that the CPS are going to try a block my summons. Can they do this?
Tame - 27-Nov-16 @ 10:54 AM
I gave a statement against my ex.partner for a domestic offence he pleaded not guilty there for resulting in me being asked to attend court as a witness/victim. I recieved a letter asking me to confirm my attendence however I havent done so and really dont want to go. Do I have to go? What happens if I say I will go then dont?? Tia
Amz - 11-Nov-16 @ 5:34 PM
I have been asked to attend court as a witness in a retrial from 8 yrs ago. Neither I or several other witnesses do not wish to go. What will happen? Can I get charged by police?
A - 7-Nov-16 @ 4:24 PM
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