Your rights as a witness
The Witness Charter sets out the basic standards of service that you can expect from the criminal justice system in England and Wales as a witness of crime. Key standards of care for witnesses include:
- having a main point of contact who will keep you informed of the progress of the case and will either provide support or refer you to relevant support agencies
- the ability to claim expenses for travel to and from the court and compensation for loss of earnings incurred as a result of attending court
- having a needs assessment conducted to identify any help that you may need to give evidence during the investigation or in court
- receiving special measures if you are considered to be a vulnerable or intimidated witness; these may include allowing you to give evidence from outside of the courtroom via videolink, and the removal of wigs and gowns by judges, defence and prosecution advocates
- being given information, or details of where information can be found, about the court and the court process
- being treated with dignity and respect at all times.
Unlike the Victims’ Code, there is no legal requirement to meet the standards for witness care set out in the Witness Charter. However, all the agencies covered by the Charter should comply with the standards wherever possible.
Victims of crime who are called as a witness have specific legal entitlements that are set out in the Victims’ Code. These include:
- the right to request special measures in court if you are a vulnerable or intimidated witness
- the right to claim for any expenses incurred as a witness in a criminal trial
- the right to ask court staff if you can enter the court building through a separate entrance from the defendant and their family and friends
- if you do not speak English, the right to request interpretation into a language you understand when giving evidence as a witness
- the right to meet the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advocate or representative and to ask them questions about the court process, where possible.
How to make a complaint
If you’re a witness of a crime and are unhappy with the level of service that you have received then you can make a complaint through the complaints procedure of the relevant agency, such as the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.
If you have done so and are still dissatisfied then you can approach the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman with your complaint. You must first contact your MP and ask them to refer your complaint to the Ombudsman as they will not consider cases directly from a member of the public. Find your local MP.