Witness Care Unit

​About Us:

Witness Care Units were established as part of Government’s ‘No Witness, No Justice’ initiative to improve services provided to victims and witnesses of crime within the Criminal Justice System. 
 
Durham Witness Care Unit is based at Police Headquarters and is staffed by experienced members of Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). We provide tailored support and information to victims and witnesses after the first court hearing date through to conclusion of the case and beyond (appeals).
 
Our Role:
 
• Keep you informed of important developments in the case as it progresses through the court. This means you will be contacted after each hearing, if you chose, so that you know what is happening.
 
• Provide you with support and advice if you are a vulnerable person. If you are required to go to court, you may be entitled to give your evidence using special measures. These are available to certain victims/witnesses dependant on circumstances and can include such things as giving evidence via a TV link or being screened off from the court whilst giving evidence.
 
• Provide guidance and support if you are being intimidated.
 
• Provide you with practical help if you are required to give your evidence in court. This means we can help you with things such as travel arrangements, finding suitable childcare, overcoming language barriers, or making arrangements for you should you have a disability.
 
• Let you know about other people who might be able to support you, such as Victim Support, the Witness Service or specialist agencies.
 
Every case which goes to court will be allocated to an individual Witness Care Officer. It is useful for you to think of this person as your single point of contact for anything you need to know about the case.
 
Every person who has to go to court will have a needs assessment completed with them by their Witness Care Officer so there will always be an opportunity for you to ask questions prior to going to court.  
 
FAQ:
 

How will I be contacted by my Witness Care Officer?
Your Witness Care Officer will use the details you provided when you made a statement to contact you. They will contact you to give you an update once the case has had the first hearing at court, at which time you can specify how you wish to be contacted and how regularly you wish to receive the updates as the case progresses.

On my statement I said I was willing to go to court. I have now changed my mind and don’t want to assist. Who should I tell?
Let your Witness Care Officer know as soon as possible and tell them the reasons you do not want to go to court. They can then take your concerns to the officer in charge of the case and/or the Crown Prosecution Service. Dependant on your reasons for not wanting to/not being able to attend you may be excused. If you do not have a good reason then you may still be asked to attend (see question below "Why can't my statement just be read out?").

Do I have to go to court or can I refuse?
If you have given a statement and are then asked to go to court then you must do so. If you have any problems or concerns about going to court you must let your Witness Care Officer know as soon as possible. If you have to go to court but the court does not feel you will attend voluntarily, they may issue a witness summons against you. This will then mean that if you fail to attend court without good reason, the court could find you ‘in contempt of court’ and may issue a warrant for your arrest.

Why can’t my statement just be read out – why do I have to attend in person?
Between the defence and the prosecution a decision is made to call you to court in person dependant on the evidence you have to offer. If there is anything in your statement that the courts wish to discuss, you will be asked to attend. This is because either defence, prosecution or both, may have questions for you about what you have said in your statement. They can only ask you these questions in court during the trial. You may feel that you have very little to offer the case, however please be assured that the decision to call you to court is carefully made and you would not be asked to attend if your evidence wasn’t important in some way to the case.

I feel I am a vulnerable person. I am extremely worried about giving evidence. What can I do about this?
Let your Witness Care Officer know as soon as possible and tell them your reasons. They will be able to advise you if you are eligible for any special measures which could make giving evidence an easier experience for you.

I feel that I have been subject to intimidation due to my involvement in this case. What should I do?
If you feel you are in any immediate danger or fear for your safety, please dial 999 to report this. If the situation has passed, you can dial our non-emergency number which is 101 to report the intimidation.

I have been told that between now and the time of the trial, the defendant has been given bail conditions to abide by. I know that they have broken these conditions – what should I do?
If you feel you are in any immediate danger or fear for your safety, please dial 999 to report the ‘breach of bail’. If the situation has passed, you can dial our non-emergency number which is 101 to report it.

I have never been to court before and don’t know what to expect. Can I come in for a look around before the trial?
Yes. Let your Witness Care Officer know and they will ask someone from the Witness Service to call you to arrange a pre-trial visit.

Do I need a solicitor?
If you are a victim or witness of a crime you do not need a solicitor. A solicitor from the Crown Prosecution Service will be prosecuting on the day. This is because most trials which take place in a Magistrates’ or Crown Court are public prosecutions, not private.

Can I read my statement again before the trial?
Yes, a copy of your statement will be given to you when you arrive at the Witness Service’s waiting room at court. It cannot be posted out to you before then.

How long will I be needed at court?
It is not possible to say exactly how long you will be needed at court, however it is best not to make any plans for later in the day. Usually you are not expected to remain at court after you have given your evidence. The prosecutor will let you know if you can leave.

I work full time – will I be expected to take time off work to attend court?
Trials only run on week days, so if you work full time you will be expected to take time off work to attend. If you need us to, we can write to your employer to let them know you need the time off. It is up to your employer whether or not they still pay you for the time you are absent from work. If you have a loss of earnings due to attending court, you can make an expenses claim.

What do I need to wear?
There is no dress code. Most people choose to dress smart-casual.

Where do I need to go when I arrive at court?
Before you attend court your Witness Care Officer will contact you to complete a needs assessment. They will run through with you where you need to go on the day. Generally, most people report to reception/security and are then directed to the Witness Service’s waiting room.

Will I see the defendant at court?
If you choose to wait in the Witness Service’s waiting room, the defendant will not be sat in this room. However, should you wish to wait in a communal area, you may see the defendant waiting there too. The defendant will of course be present in the courtroom during the trial.

Can I bring a friend or family member with me?
Yes, you can bring someone with you for support on the day. They will be able to wait in the Witness Service’s waiting room with you and if you would like them to, they can sit at the back of the courtroom in the public gallery whilst you are giving your evidence. (Please note: there is no public gallery in a youth court).

Can I claim expenses?
Yes, you can claim for attending court and out of pocket expenses and travel.  You will need to keep your receipts.  An expenses form will be provided to you by your Witness Care Officer or at the court.