New rights for victims of crime in Europe - Specialist services for witnesses in court
Victim Support in England and Wales has successfully pioneered, researched and developed services for witnesses in all its criminal courts, which have been well received, supported and encouraged by all the professions working in the courts. The Witness Service was piloted in the Crown Court centres (higher courts) in response to research highlighting the needs of witnesses attending court. It operates to national standards and provides information and support for witnesses. Services include the opportunity to visit a courtroom before giving evidence, the provision of information on court procedures, a quiet place to wait, someone to talk to in confidence, and a chance to talk over the case when it has ended and to get more help or information. The service is available to all witnesses, including defence witnesses.
Over 90% of all criminal cases are tried in the 430-plus magistrates' courts (lower criminal courts) operating throughout England and Wales. Magistrates' courts regularly consider assaults, threats, harassment - including racially motivated crime and domestic violence, neglect of children, and cases involving a death on the roads. Because of the local nature of magistrates' courts, witnesses may be known to defendants and to their friends or relatives, giving rise to fears of intimidation. In addition, most witnesses summoned to magistrates' courts will never have been to court before, and many find the experience distressing. Witnesses can experience acute anxiety, fear of the court process and a fear of confronting the defendant. In the light of this, Victim Support believed it was essential that the Witness Service be extended to all criminal courts throughout England and Wales. Following a protracted campaign, Victim Support in England and Wales finally secured Home Office funding to extend the Witness Service to all magistrates' courts in 1999. In April 2000, the Witness Service was operational in just over 100 magistrates' courts, by the end of the financial year the service had been set up in 207 courts - covering almost half the country. During that year over 32,800 people were supported. From April 2002 services were fully operational in all courts. Through the extension of the Witness Service, Victim Support can now deliver an efficient, responsive network of quality services working to national standards throughout all the criminal courts in England and Wales.
Company number: 2158780 Registered in England. Limited by guarantee.
Registered charity number: 298028.