Preparing to go to court as a witness

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

You’ll be told the date of the trial by the person who asked you to go to court.

They’ll keep you up to date and explain what you need to do about things like transport and childcare, so that you can plan ahead.

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 you need time off work

If you haven’t already spoken to your employer, let them know as soon as possible that you'll need time off work.

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for time off work when you go to court as a witness. But you can claim expenses for loss of earnings - ask someone from the Witness Service for a form on the day of the trial.

If your employer says you can’t have time off

You should talk to your witness care officer or the defence lawyer.

The court can issue a ‘witness summons’ that you can show to your employer to prove you have to go.

If you can’t make the court date

If you're ill on the day or have a family emergency for example, tell your witness care officer or the defence lawyer as soon as you can. The court might be able to carry on the trial without you but they often have to change the date so you can give evidence.

What to wear in court

There aren’t any rules about what you should wear when you go to court, but most people will be dressed smartly. Whatever you wear, you should make sure you’re comfortable because it can be a long day.

If you need to arrange childcare

You can claim up to £67 for each day that you’re in court to cover the cost of paying for childcare.

If you do take your children to court you’ll need to bring a friend or relative with you to look after them - children under 14 aren’t allowed into the courtroom unless they’re giving evidence. 

Check to see if the court you’re going to has baby changing facilities, if you need them.

If you’re worried about going to court because of coronavirus

The court should follow certain rules to keep you safe - you can read the latest guidance on GOV.UK.

You can check how to prepare if the court arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

Contact the court if they haven’t told you how to attend your hearing. You can search for the court’s contact details on GOV.UK.

Planning your travel

You can find a map and directions for the court you’re going to using the GOV.UK court and tribunal finder.

It’s best to plan your journey to court in advance so you make sure you have plenty of time on the day of the trial. If you’re not sure how to get to court, ask someone from the Witness Service - they’ll have local knowledge about the area.

If you’re driving to court, park somewhere you can stay for the day - the trial could be delayed or go on longer than you expect.

You can claim expenses for travel, car parking charges and congestion charges.

If you can’t afford to get to court

You can get money in advance if you’re a prosecution witness - just let the Witness Care Unit know.

If you’re a defence witness, speak to the defence lawyer.

If you get a witness summons, the police can pay for your travel if you need it.

If you’re disabled

You can use the GOV.UK court and tribunal finder to find out:

  • what disabled parking, access and toilet facilities are available at the court

  • if the court has hearing enhancement facilities

Please help us to improve our advice about going to court. Tell us how we can make our website better in this 3 minute survey.

Help us improve our website

Take 3 minutes to tell us if you found what you needed on our website. Your feedback will help us give millions of people the information they need.