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Extra help in court

Most people don’t see the inside of a courtroom until they are called as a witness or asked to sit on a jury, which makes them unfamiliar places. They are also very formal and can sometimes seem quite frightening, so it’s not surprising that being a witness is a stressful experience for most people. 

If you have additional needs, going to court can be even more daunting. It can also be particularly frightening for children and young witnesses.

The criminal justice system has introduced what it calls special measures in court, to make it easier for people who need extra help to give evidence. These 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:

  • the use of screens or curtains so that you don’t have to see the defendant across the courtroom 
  • giving evidence from outside the courtroom via a live video link 
  • clearing the public gallery so that you can give evidence in private   
  • making a pre-recorded video of your statement  
  • getting members of the court to remove their gowns and wigs, so that they look more ‘normal’.

In addition to these special measures, a Registered Intermediary may also be available. They are appointed by the court to help vulnerable witnesses who have communication difficulties to give their evidence at court. Other communication aids, such as alphabet boards, may also be used. 

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