Extra help in court
We can help to arrange special measures at court if you need extra help to testify
Most people don't see the inside of a courtroom until they are called as a witness or to sit on a jury - that makes them unfamilar places. They are also very formal places and sometimes quite intimidating - including for the professionals who are there. So it's not surprising that being a witness can be stressful.
Special measures to help you
If you have special needs, going to court can be even more daunting. It can also be frightening for children and young witnesses. That's why the criminal justice system has introduced what it calls special measures in the court to make it easier for people who need extra help to give evidence. Special measures can also be used to make it easier for witnesses who are being threatened or intimidated to give their evidence.
Special measures can include things such as:
- using screens so that the defendant can't see you - or you them - across the courtroom
- giving evidence from outside the courtroom by live closed circuit television (CCTV)
- making a pre-recorded video of your evidence
- members of the court removing their gowns and wigs to make them look more 'normal'
- using communication aids, such as sign boards, if you have difficulty with spoken English, and
- interpreters for witnesses who do not speak English.
Although the police and Crown Prosecution Service try to identify witnesses who are entitled to special measures in court - some people slip through the net. But the Witness Service can also ask the court to put special measures in place so if you think you need extra help to testify, let us know.
Controlling the media
Courts are public places and reporters are normally free to attend any trial. And while some restrictions apply to all trials (such as banning photographs in court) cases can and do end up in the newspapers, on radio and TV.
However, if a witness or defendant is under 18, or a victim of rape or sexual assault, the media must not identify them. The courts can also put restrictions in place to limit what the media can report in other cases, for example if a witness is afraid or very upset at giving evidence. If you have concerns about the media covering a trial you are involved in as a witness, we can give you information about what help may be available.