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What will happen on the day of the trial as a witness

This advice applies to England

On the day of the trial you’ll have to go to court to give your evidence.

When you get to court you can get help from a Witness Service volunteer. Ask the staff at the front desk to help you find someone from the Witness Service.

You can ask the Witness Service volunteer to see a courtroom before you give evidence if one is free. They might show you a picture if one isn't free.

You can also get help before the trial. If you live outside London contact the Witness Service.

If you live in London contact Victim Support - email or call 0808 168 9111.

To check if you live in London:

  1. Find your local council on GOV.UK
  2. Check if your council is a London borough on the London Councils website

What will happen when you give evidence

When you go into the courtroom you’ll be ‘sworn in’ - this means you agree to tell the truth. It’s a criminal offence if you don’t. You don’t have to remember what to say when you’re sworn in - you’ll be given a card with the words on it.

The lawyer representing the side which asked you to give evidence will start asking you questions.

When the lawyer asks you questions you can:

  • ask them to repeat a question or ask it in a different way
  • say if you don’t know the answer
  • ask them to explain any words you don’t understand

If you find it difficult to stand in the witness box

You’ll normally have to stand while you're in the witness box. If you find standing difficult, you can ask the magistrate or the judge if you can sit down.

When you’re asked questions by the other side

After you've given evidence for the side which called you as a witness, you'll be asked questions by the lawyer for the other side. This is called cross-examination.

It’s their job to try to present a different version of events. It can be stressful but just tell the court what happened to you or what your saw in your own words. If you don’t understand a question, feel upset by their questions or feel unwell, you should say so. The magistrate or judge might let you have a break before you carry on. You can ask for a drink of water or a tissue if you need one.

Staying in the court building

If you want to leave the court building, for example to get some fresh air, you should ask the Witness Service volunteer and they’ll pass on your request.

If you’re allowed to leave the building, you should let them know where you’re going and how you can be contacted. You shouldn’t go too far away in case you're needed back at short notice.

After you’ve given evidence

You’re free to go after you’ve given evidence. You can stay to watch the rest of the trial if you're aged 14 or over.

You mustn’t discuss anything you said or heard in court with other witnesses who haven’t given their evidence yet. This includes talking about it on social media sites like Twitter of Facebook.

Keep your employer updated

You should let your employer know if you have to go back to court another day and make sure you have arrangements in place if necessary - for example, childcare.

It’s possible that you won’t have to go into the courtroom that day if other cases take longer than expected.

If you need to claim expenses

You can claim expenses for going to court to give evidence - you’ll get a form to fill in. Make sure you keep receipts for expenses - you’ll need to hand these in with the form.

A Witness Service volunteer can help you fill in the form.

Find out how much you can claim on GOV.UK.

You won’t usually be able to claim expenses if you’re a character witness.

You also won’t be able to claim expenses if you attend court but refuse to give evidence.

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