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Frequently Asked Questions



Why should I report a crime?

If you report a crime, then the police have the opportunity to work towards solving your crime and preventing further offences. They use the information you provide to study crime trends and if a pattern is identifiable then they can work towards resolving it perhaps by targeting certain areas at relevant times.

The police may work with other agencies, e.g. housing associations or councils. If criminals go unchallenged there is a strong likelihood of them continuing their offending.

Do I have to give a witness statement to the police?

No. Although there is no legal requirement to give a witness statement there is a civic duty on each of us to help the police with their enquiries.

For many, the prospect of making a statement and appearing in court can be a concern. The police and courts appreciate that many people feel this way and have processes in place to help you feel more at ease.

What is a Victim Personal Statement (VPS)?

If you are a victim of crime, you have an opportunity to say how the crime has affected you personally. You can say as much or as little as you wish, and in your own words.

The contents of the statement may include a request to be kept informed of case developments, to be put in touch with Victim Support or other agencies, describe your fears about the offender, being a witness or other personal issues.

The VPS is read before the court and will be considered by the judge or magistrates before arriving at a sentencing decision.

How long will the police investigation take?

The police will undertake the investigation as quickly as reasonably possible. Some investigations take a matter of days to conclude. However, an investigation can sometimes take several months and will continue for as long as a positive outcome is considered likely by the police. They will tie-in information with other similar cases or ongoing criminal activity.

If the police find a suspect, they will gather all the available relevant evidence against that person and you will be informed if that happens. The police will provide you with a realistic expectation of how long the investigation will take.

Who will provide updates on the case?

The police officer dealing with the case will provide you with regular updates and advise you when the investigation is finalised. If the case goes to court, a witness care officer will be nominated as your single point of contact. Depending on whether you are a victim or witness, The Victims Code or The Witness Charter will apply - see the Service Standards section for further details.

Your witness care officer will update you with progress information and the outcome of the case if it goes to court. If your case is resolved without the suspect appearing in court the investigating police officer will update you.

When will I be told I need to attend court?

If you are to be called as a witness you will be contacted by a witness care officer who will let you know the time and venue.  You will also receive information about the court you have been requested to attend through the post. They will do all they can to support you and find out if you need help to get to the court, or other practical help such as child care.

Do I have to attend court if I don’t want to?

Witnesses are vital to the criminal justice system. Without witness evidence criminals would find it easier to avoid prosecution and continue their offending. If you are thinking of not going to court you should first speak to the officer who is investigating the offence or with your witness care officer. They will be able to help you overcome your worries and assist you at court.

If you are asked to attend court and you do not attend, or you tell the police or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that you are not going to attend, a witness summons can be issued to compel you to go to court. However, if there is a particular reason for you not wanting to go, you should tell the police or witness care officer to enable the prosecutor to deal with your issues.

What if I cannot attend on the date of the trial?

Your witness care officer will do all that they can to help you; they are there to support you. You should discuss any problems with your witness care officer as soon as possible before the court case. You should allow them enough time to make necessary alternative arrangements where possible.

The prosecutor will decide whether to issue a witness summons to compel you to attend court or to ask the court for an adjournment, for the case to be heard at a later date. However, the court may not grant an adjournment. As a result, the case may have to be stopped.

Can I visit the court before the trial?

Yes, the Witness Service run what is called a pre-court familiarisation visit. Your witness care officer will ask you if you want to visit the court beforehand and will ask the Witness Service to contact you to make arrangements. This service is free and independent of the police or courts.

Even if you do not want help before the trial, the Witness Service will be available to help you on the day.

Witness Service run a Young Witness service for witnesses 17 and under.  They can arrange for an enhanced service to witnesses in addition to those offered to adults, including visits to their home to fully explain the court processes, and follow up contact to assess if there are any further needs of the witness (for example ongoing support).

Will I meet the prosecutor before the trial?

No, you will not usually meet the prosecutor until you attend court. However, if you are a child or an adult who is vulnerable or intimidated, the prosecutor and the police may meet you at an earlier date to discuss your needs, the roles of the people involved in the trial, court procedures and special measures. If such a meeting is held the prosecutor will not be able to discuss your evidence or the case.

What should I take with me to court?

You should take the letter asking you to go to court and any other information you have been given about the hearing. If you are told to do so, you should bring any exhibits you still have, such as stolen property which may have been returned to you.

You will be sent a map highlighting where the court is located. Some courts do not have parking. Please allow time to find a place to leave your car and remember you may be staying several hours.

You might also like to take something to read or do. You may have to wait before it is your turn to give evidence. You may also need money to cover costs like car parking and refreshments.

Please also read the section about expenses.

Can I take someone with me?

Yes. If you like, you can take a friend or relative to keep you company while you wait to give evidence. They won't be able to claim expenses (such as travel costs) unless the court agrees; for example, to assist you if you are disabled or if you are aged under 17 years. Your witness care officer will be able to talk this through with you before the court date and make sure you know when a friend or relative can be with you.

What should I do when I arrive at court?

You should find clear signs to help you find your way around. All cases are listed under the defendant's name. Show the court security guard or usher your letter asking you to attend court. The usher will tell you where to wait. If you are not already in touch with the Witness Service, you can see them when you arrive. Ask the Witness Service if you want to have a look in the court room before your case starts or if you are worried about seeing the defendant’s friends or relatives. There may be a separate room where you can wait. You will have the opportunity to arrange all this prior to attending court with your witness care officer.

A representative from the Crown Prosecution Service will also introduce him/herself to you. They will give you a copy of your statement to read before you give evidence.

Will I have to wait to give evidence?

The courts aim to ensure that you do not have to wait more than two hours before giving evidence. However, some cases are delayed or even put off until another date. If this happens you will be told as soon as possible. If you have any questions about what is happening, you can ask a member of the Witness Service, Court Usher or CPS, who will provide as much information as possible. Sometimes a defendant pleads guilty on the day of the trial. This is not something the police or CPS can predict and if this happens you will not be needed to give evidence in court. Your written evidence is still needed though.

In most courts, if you need to wait, there are separate areas for defence and prosecution witnesses.

When can I leave the court?

The prosecutor will seek to get you released from the court as soon as possible. You might still decide to stay to watch what happens but that is up to you. If you have an important reason to leave early, tell the person who asked you to come to court or their representative at court before the case starts. If you can't find them tell the usher. It may be possible for you to give evidence before other witnesses, however, this cannot always be arranged. You should not leave unless you have been told you are no longer required.

If you leave the court building for any reason (for example, to pay for parking), tell the usher.

I am worried about giving evidence?

It is not unusual for people to feel anxious about giving evidence in court. Trained volunteers from the Witness Service appreciate this and will be at the court to help you. Other people who work at the court will also know that you may be nervous and will do what they can to make sure you are treated with respect and sensitivity.

If you are considered to be a vulnerable or intimidated witness, the prosecutor might have applied for you to have what are called special measures. These are adaptations the court can make to make you feel more at ease. If special measures are granted you will be told.

Can I claim my expenses?

Yes you can claim some expenses. These include travel, lost wages, childcare and an allowance towards meals.  The amount you can claim depends on how long you have to be away from home or work in order to attend court.

Normally the Witness Service volunteer will provide you with a claim form, but please do not hesitate to ask for one if you think this may have been overlooked.

If you need any help completing the form the Witness Service should be able to assist.

Expenses are not paid on the day at the courtroom, you should post your claim form to the CPS. You will receive a cheque through the post which can take between five and ten working days. Some payments can be made beforehand if you have no other way to pay to get to court.

I am a victim of crime will I be eligible for compensation from the offender?

If you are the victim of a violent crime and have suffered loss, damage or injury you may be entitled to compensation. You can obtain a compensation claim form from either the police officer who took your statement or from someone working for the police, for example the Criminal Justice Unit. This will be used at court.

If you have been injured due to a crime you can apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, details can be found in the police and partners section within Contacting Us on this DVD. Your local branch of Victim Support can help you completing the claim form.

Can I get help after the case is finalised?

It depends what sort of help you need. Victim Support are available after the case is finalised and if you have any problems after an investigation, you can always contact the investigating officer for help and advice. They can refer you to another agency that can offer support if they cannot help you with the problem.

Details can be found in the Contacting Us section.





Do you need a quick answer to a general question? Then we recommend you visit the national Ask The Police web site.