When you contact us, we collect personal information about you so we can support you.
We get your information either through:
- an online form on our website
- other organisations - if they pass us your details
- talking with you about the case - over the phone or face to face
- a feedback form we give you - on paper, a tablet device or by email
- complaints or feedback you send to us
If you call the Citizens Advice Witness Service contact centre, we'll record the conversation for training and monitoring purposes.
If you're under 16, we'll talk to your parent, guardian or carer about your case - unless they give us permission to talk to you directly.
What information we ask for
We only record information that helps us support you when you give evidence, or when you're at court. This includes your name, contact details and how you think we can support you. We also record details about your support needs, such as information about your health - we'll ask for your permission to record this information.
We record information you give in our witness experience survey and any follow-up research to help us measure and improve our support for witnesses.
We'll ask for demographic information like your gender, disability and sexual orientation. You don't have to tell us this information if you don't want to.
When we ask you for personal information, we’ll:
- only ask for information we need
- explain why we need it
How we use your information
We mainly use the information you give us to support you as a victim or witness.
We’ll only access your information for other reasons if we have a ‘legitimate interest’ to do this under data protection law. For example we have a legitimate interest to access your data:
- for training and quality purposes
- to investigate complaints
- to get feedback from you about our services
- to help us improve our services
We only let our staff access your information if they need to and we train them in how to use personal information securely. We always follow data protection law when we use your information.
Understanding people's experiences
We use some information to create statistics about who we're helping and their experience of being a victim or witness. This information is always anonymised - you can't be identified.
We share these with funders, regulators, government departments and publicly on our blogs, reports, social media and press releases.
The statistics also inform our policy research, campaigns, or media work.
When we share your data with other organisations
We share some of your information with Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), G4S security staff, or defence solicitors to help support you in your role as a victim or witness. For example, we might share your name with HMCTS so you can access the court building.
We might also share your information with the Ministry of Justice. We and the Ministry of Justice are both responsible for keeping your personal information safe and making sure we comply with data protection law. This means we're a 'joint data controller' for your personal information.
In other situations, we'll ask for your permission to share your information. For example, we'll ask your permission if we need to share your religion with ushers in court so you can say the right oath.
If you want us to refer you to another support organisation, we might share your information with them so they can help you. We'll always get your permission before doing this.
If something you've told us makes us think you or someone you know might be at serious risk of harm, we could tell the police or social services - for example if we think you might hurt yourself or someone else. We'll usually talk to you before we do this, unless it could cause more harm.
Organisations we share your data with must store and use it in line with data protection law - they mustn't pass it on or sell it without your permission.
Where we store your information and for how long
When we first get your information we’ll store it temporarily while we transfer it to our information system. We’ll delete the temporary information after 6 weeks.
After 6 months we delete any information that identifies you. The 6 months starts when the trial or case ends - or when our support for you ends if it’s later.
If another organisation refers you to us, they'll send us an email. We delete the emails after 6 months.
If you make a complaint about us, we might have to keep your information for longer so we can deal with the complaint. We usually keep information about complaints for 6 years. If your complaint is serious or involves an insurance claim or other dispute we keep the information for 16 years.
Our case management systems are hosted within the European Economic Area (EEA) and wherever possible, the UK.
Your information might also be stored in other ways, depending on how we communicate with you.
We’re responsible for keeping your personal information safe and making sure we follow data protection law. This means we're the ‘data controller’ for your information.
If you complete a survey on paper or tablet device
We might ask you to complete a survey on paper or on a Witness Service tablet device while:
- in court
- at a meeting before or after the trial
If you choose to give us feedback using the survey, the answers you give are confidential. We’ll use an identification number instead of your name to link your experience to the type of support you received.
We might need to use an identification number to find out your name if we need to respond to a complaint or a safeguarding issue. Your name will be deleted after 6 months.
Completing an online survey via email
We'll only email you about completing a survey if you’ve given us consent.
Your answers will help us understand how your experience relates to the type of support you received. Once we get your survey answers, we’ll disconnect your email address from your feedback.
Your answers are linked to an identification number for six months, after this we will anonymise them. We might need to use the identification number to find a witness if:
- we need to respond to a complaint or safeguarding issue
- you've agreed to take part in further research for us
If you use email
Emails between you and Witness Service staff are stored securely within our office email system. Emails are kept on the system for 6 months after the trial or case has finished and then deleted.
Emails between Witness Service staff and our criminal justice partners, like HMCTS or the Crown Prosecution Service, are stored securely in the Criminal Justice Secure Mail system. This is hosted by the UK Government within the European Economic Area (EEA) in line with data protection law. Emails are kept on the system for 6 months and then deleted.
If we speak to you by phone
If the Witness Service contact centre contacts you by phone, calls are recorded and stored securely by our trusted partner, KCOM. Recordings are kept for 6 months and then deleted.
If you agree to get appointment reminders by text message (SMS)
If you give us permission, we might send you text messages to remind you when you’ve got an appointment with us.
The text message will contain:
- your first name
- the date, time and location of your appointment
- contact information for Citizens Advice
Our text messages aren’t encrypted but they don’t include any other information that could be used to identify you.
We store text messages on our information system and delete them at the same time as the other information we have about you.
If you want to stop getting appointment reminders by text message, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact us about your information
You can email us at email@example.com and ask us to:
- send you the information we've stored about you
- change or update your details
- delete your information
If you want to make a complaint
If you're not happy with how we've handled your data, you can make a complaint through our website.