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Check if you can get special measures in court

This advice applies to England

If you have extra needs that mean you might struggle when you give evidence, the court might decide you’re a ‘vulnerable or intimidated witness’. 

If the court decides you’re a vulnerable or intimidated witness, there are ways they can help you give your best evidence - these are called ‘special measures’.

The court will decide if you’re a vulnerable or intimidated witness and whether you can have special measures.

Check if you might be a vulnerable or intimidated witness

If you’re under 18 you’re automatically a ‘vulnerable witness’ - find out more about going to court as a witness if you’re under 18

The court might also decide you’re a vulnerable witness if you might struggle when you give evidence because of:

  • your mental health
  • a mental or physical disability or condition

The court might decide you’re an ‘intimidated witness’ if you think you’ll struggle when you give evidence because you’ll feel very scared or upset. 

When the court decides whether you’re an intimidated witness, it will look at your situation and the type of crime you witnessed. For example, it will look at whether: 

  • you’ve experienced a sexual offence or domestic abuse

  • you witnessed a crime involving a gun or knife

  • you’re being intimidated by someone because of the trial

Check which special measures might help you

There are different types of special measures that might help, depending on your situation. For example, the court can: 

  • put up screens in court - this means you can’t see the defendant and they can’t see you 

  • let you give evidence by video link from a different room

  • video record some or all of your evidence before the trial 

  • tell the public to leave the courtroom so you can give evidence in private 

  • make sure someone is there to help you communicate with the court - this person is called an ‘intermediary’

  • ask lawyers and judges to take off their wigs and gowns so the court feels less formal

How to apply for special measures

If you think you’re a vulnerable or intimidated witness, you should tell the person who asked you to go to court. For example, this might be the police officer, a defence lawyer or someone from the witness care unit.

They can ask the court to give you the special measures that would help you most.

The court will only give you special measures if they think it will help you give your best evidence.

Get help from the Witness Service

If you’re worried about going to court, you can get free and confidential help from the Witness Service. They can give you emotional support and help you understand the court process.

You can find out more about the Witness Service and how to get help

If the court says they’ll give you special measures, the Witness Service can help you: 

  • visit a court to work out which special measures might help you give evidence

  • practise using some of the equipment - for example, you could try using a video link or a screen