Can I report a crime for someone
I gave information to the police about a crime, why have I been called as a defence witness?
Why haven't the police contacted me since I made my report?
How long will the police investigation take?
What is bail?
What does remand in custody mean?
How will they decide a court date?
Are there hearings before the case gets to trial?
Can I claim expenses for attending court?
Can a friend or relative who comes to court with me also claim expenses?
What about childcare?
How long will the trial go on for?
What about breaks for meals and things?
Can I sit down when I give my evidence?
How do I find out about the verdict?
What influences the sentence given to the defendant?
Can the defendant appeal against the verdict?
Is the appeal the end of the process?
Below are some frequently asked questions about witnessing a crime.
Yes you can. The police do prefer the victim to report the incident directly because that person has full knowledge of what has happened, but they do understand that this is not always possible.
If the victim is concerned about talking to the police, they may find it helpful to talk to someone else for support. Victim Support, which is an independent national charity, offers emotional and practical support to victims and witnesses , whether or not they decide to report a crime.
There is no ownership of witnesses. This means that, in some cases, witnesses who originally give information to the police can be asked to give evidence for the defence in court. It will depend on which side thinks your evidence is most helpful to their case.
The police have to prioritise what they can and cannot investigate and what information they should follow up. In some cases the police may decide that they do not need to speak to you again but just because the police have not contacted you or they have not asked you to make a statement, it does not mean that they do not value your information. They will usually only take statements from witnesses if the crime is serious or where there is a good chance that they will be able to arrest someone.
Even if your information does not help solve that particular crime the police can use the information to try to find patterns in where and how crime is being committed in a certain area. What you tell the police may also help by confirming what they already suspect, or it may provide a new line of investigation.
A police investigation can take several months and the investigation will carry on as long as the police think they can achieve something. They will check developments and try to tie in information with any other similar cases or ongoing criminal activity. If the police collect enough evidence to identify a suspect they will interview the person and take the appropriate action for each particular case.
Unconditional bail - Where the police think that the suspect is unlikely to commit another offence, will attend court when required, will not intimidate the victim or other witnesses or obstruct the course of justice they will usually release them on unconditional bail. This requires only that they turn up to court on time. However if they do not turn up the court can issue a warrant for their arrest.
Conditional bail - Where the police think there is a risk that the suspect may commit another offence, fail to turn up at court, intimidate you or other witnesses, or obstruct the course of justice, they can impose conditional bail. This means that their liberty is restricted in some way. For example, there may be a condition not to go within a certain distance of your house, or there may be a curfew if the offence was committed at night. If they are reported or believed to have breached one of the conditions, they can be arrested and put before a magistrates court where they may be remanded in custody.
Where there is a high risk of the defendant committing another offence, failing to turn up at court, intimidating you or obstructing the course of justice the police will keep the defendant in detention and take them to the magistrates court. The Crown Prosecutor will be given details of the offence and reasons why the police think that they should be remanded in custody to a prison. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not they agree with the police recommendation. One of the things they will think about will be circumstances and potential threat to the victim or other witnesses.
The defendant will usually be represented by a solicitor who may argue that they should be given bail. After hearing the prosecutor and the defence solicitor or defendant, the magistrates will decide on bail. If the defendant is remanded in custody, they may apply one more time for bail to the magistrates and then if that application is refused they can apply to a judge. After this they cannot make any more applications unless they can persuade the magistrates that something about the case or personal circumstances has changed.
At a special hearing known as a pre-trial review in the magistrates' court and a plea and directions hearing in the Crown Court, the prosecutor and the defence lawyer will tell the court how long they think the trial will take and how many witnesses will have to come to court to give evidence. If the case is long and complicated, it may not be possible to list it for trial at that hearing, because more work has to be done. If this is the case it will be listed for trial at another court hearing after everyone has done the work and is ready.
The court will then fix a date for the trial. The Court will do its best to find a date that is convenient for all the witnesses (for instance, courts will try to avoid fixing trials when you are on holiday).This may not be always possible especially if it will result in a long delay until the trial date.
There may be a number of hearings to deal with legal issues before the trial begins. As a general rule the more complicated cases will take longer to get to trial and have more hearings before the trial because the prosecution and defence have more preparation to do. You do not have to attend these hearings.
The Witness Care Officer will provide you with the expense claim form.
The claim form sets out what you can claim for, including expenses for travel (if we have not arranged this for you), an allowance for meals and loss of earnings. The amount you can claim will depend on the length of time you have to be away from home or work to go to court. You can claim expenses only up to when you are released by the court.
You cannot claim expenses for a friend or relative who may accompany you. However, if you need someone to help with your mobility or for certain other reasons, they may be able to claim expenses such as travel. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Please attach receipts for expenses to your claim form. We do our best to pay claims within 10 days of receipt.
If you take a friend or relative to keep you company they won't be able to get expenses such as travel costs unless the court agrees he or she must be there. For example, you may need someone to look after your child while you give evidence, or if you are disabled. You can check this with the person who asked you to come to court.
If you have to arrange childcare because you have to attend court to be a witness you can claim a financial loss allowance to meet the cost of this. If you cannot arrange any childcare and you need to bring your children or dependants with you, you should contact the court to find out what facilities they have to help you. Although you can bring your children into the court, you will not be able to take your children into the courtroom to sit with you whilst you give evidence.
There are many things that influence the length of a trial so it is not possible to say. Some larger cases where the offence is serious and there are many witnesses, go on for weeks. Even if the case goes on for a long time you will not be expected to attend court for that whole time, you will normally only have to attend court on the day that you have to give evidence.
The court will break for lunch, and may have other breaks during the day. During a break you should not speak to anyone about your evidence and you may be asked to have lunch separately from other witnesses in your case.
Usually witnesses stand in the witness box to give evidence but in some courts you can sit down. If you find it difficult to stand for long periods of time and would rather be seated tell the Witness Service, the lawyer or the usher before you give your evidence. If you are unable to do this ask the magistrate or judge if you can be seated before you give your evidence.
You should contact the person who asked you to attend court and they will tell you the result.
The age of the defendant, their background and criminal history, whether or not they pleaded guilty, and whether they have shown any remorse, can all be taken into consideration when the defendant is sentenced.
An offender can appeal against the sentence or conviction or both.
If the defendant is convicted in the magistrates court and appeals against the conviction, the whole trial will be heard again in front of a judge and two magistrates. You may have to give your evidence again. If it is only the sentence that is in dispute, a Crown Court judge will consider the appeal and decide whether to change the sentence or keep it the same.
If the defendant appeals against a Crown Court conviction, the appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal who will either quash the conviction which means it is no longer valid, order a retrial, which means the case has to be heard again, or leave the conviction as it is.
If a defendant's appeal is unsuccessful, they can make an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission which considers alleged miscarriages of justice that have been through the appeals process. The Commission can refer the case back to the Court of Appeal if they consider there is a real possibility that a conviction or sentence would not be upheld.