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Witnesses need support to feel confident giving evidence

19 January 2016

Citizens Advice had stressed the need for witnesses to have the right support and options for giving evidence in order to ensure an effective justice system.

The charity, which runs the Witness Service helping 14,000 people a month give evidence, recognised the pivotal role witnesses play in the justice system.

Today the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate has published a review into how witness summons are used by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Courts are an alien environment for most people.  Witnesses can feel isolated or frightened at the prospect of going to court which is why they need help and guidance to understand the processes and how their contribution can secure justice.  

“Summons without support means people aren’t given the information they need to give their best evidence and can find the prospect of going to court daunting.

“The right support and advice can equip people to confidently give evidence.  With four in five people supported by the Witness Service reporting they feel less anxious and distressed and better able to cope with giving evidence, it is clear that having empowered witnesses is pivotal to an effective justice system.

“As well as directing people to the help available, the Crown Prosecution Service needs to make sure vulnerable and intimidated witnesses are offered the choice to appear via video or behind a screen and that it is actually available on the day.  This is particularly important in domestic abuse cases when the witness may also be the victim.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free practical and emotional support for witnesses in all criminal courts across England and Wales. The Witness Service is run by nearly 2,500 volunteers and 300 staff and its independent support is offered to anyone to called to give evidence.
  2. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  3. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  4. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  5. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  6. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  7. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.