In this section:

1. What to expect as a victim or witness of a crime
2. What happens after you report a crime?
3. Victims' Right to Review scheme
4. Giving a witness or victim statement
5. Going to court
6. What happens after the trial?
7. Victim and witness support organisations

Only a small number of cases end up in court, but as a victim or witness of a crime if you’re asked to give evidence in court, you must go. 

You'll only have to go to court if the defendant (the person accused of the crime):

  • denies the charge and pleads ‘not guilty’; or
  • pleads guilty but denies a part of the offence which might affect the sentence they're given

Find out more about how the courts work.

Preparing for going to court

If you're asked to give evidence in court, we can make sure you get help and support.

We’ll introduce you to a member of the Witness Care Unit.

This person will be your contact during the trial. They'll:

  • answer any questions you have
  • give you all the information you need
  • make sure you’re prepared

They can arrange a court visit before the trial so you can see what the courtroom looks like. They'll also explain where key people might sit and what happens on the day of the trial.

On the day, you may be able to arrive through a different entrance to the defendant and wait in a separate area.

Special measures

If you’re feeling vulnerable or are afraid of the offender, or if a child or young person is giving evidence, the court may be able to provide 'special measures', these are:

  • giving evidence from behind a screen or by a live link from another room
  • trained professionals, called intermediaries, who can help to explain things
  • giving evidence in private, with no press or public allowed in the courtroom
  • communication aids (eg alphabet boards, speech systems) 

To find out more about going to court as a victim or witness, visit the Crown Prosecution Service. And there's information for witnesses at Citizens Advice.

For those attending court in Scotland, the above services are provided by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. For more information visit the Scottish Government's website or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

What happens if I don't go to court?

If you have any concerns about going to court, you must tell the person who asked you to go as soon as possible. They can help explain things to you and look at what support you can get.

If you won't go to court, you may get a 'witness summons' from the court. A witness summons says you have to go to court. 

If you still fail to go to court without a good reason, you could be ‘in contempt of court’ and you may be arrested.

Expenses for going to court

You can claim expenses when you go to court as a:

  • prosecution witness (from the CPS)
  • defence witness (from the defence lawyer)

Your employer doesn't have to pay you for your time off work.

Prosecution witnesses

You can claim expenses from the CPS for travel, meals, drinks, loss of earnings and childcare.

If you’re not sent an expenses form before the trial, ask for one from a court usher or someone from the Witness Care Unit.

Defence witnesses

If the court usher doesn't give you an expenses form, ask the court or the defence lawyer if you can claim expenses for your time in court.

Returning property

When an item is no longer needed as evidence or as part of the investigation, you have the right to get it back as soon as it's no longer required. 


Next: What happens after the trial?