I’m a parent of a young victim or witness
If you’re the parent, carer or guardian of a child who has experienced or witnessed a crime, you may need to support them to give evidence in court. There are videos you can show your child that explain what happens in court, who will be involved in the process, and what they will be expected to do.
- Watch the video for older children on going to court.
- Watch the video for younger children on going to court.
Watching these videos together may help reduce your child’s worry about going to court. But you must not coach them or rehearse the evidence they’re going to give, as this may affect the case. Talk to the investigating officer supporting you in your case if you have any concerns.
Frequently asked questions about the people and processes in court
What does the Witness Service do?
The Witness Service helps witnesses feel confident and prepared to give their evidence.
They provide tailored preparation sessions and visits to the court in advance, so you and your child know what to expect. They will also support both you and your child at court on the day of the hearing. If your child has an intermediary, they will work in partnership with them.
If you live within the London area, the London Victim and Witness Service can help you prepare before hearings.
What does an intermediary do?
Intermediaries are communication specialists. Their job is to help children give their best evidence during police interviews or at court.
Intermediaries meet your child to get to know them and find out what will help them relax, communicate well and understand the lawyers’ questions. Your child may have already met an intermediary when the police interviewed them.
Intermediaries can help when your child:
- visits the court
- watches their video interview
- answers the lawyers’ questions during the pre-recorded hearing
Intermediaries are not part of either the prosecution or defence teams. They are impartial and appointed by the court. If you have any questions about intermediaries, please ask the investigating officer on the case.
How long will the hearing take?
This depends on the number of questions asked by the lawyers and whether your child needs any comfort breaks when giving evidence. The judge will try to keep any hearing involving a child witness as short as possible. The recording will start after the judge has introduced the lawyers for the prosecution and defence. The recording won’t stop until all questions have been asked. Any comfort breaks may be edited out afterwards. This is a decision for the judge and the lawyers.
Will my child have the chance to review what they told the police?
A few days before the hearing, your child will have an opportunity to watch the video interview that they gave to the police. You will be told the date and can raise any concerns about this beforehand.
Where will the recording happen?
Your child will give their evidence in a video room either in the court building or at a remote site.
There will be an intermediary and a court usher (or sometimes a person from the Witness Service) in the video room. This ensures your child is fully supported through the process.
Before the recording, the lawyers and the judge will introduce themselves to you and your child. They may take off their wigs and gowns to keep things relaxed. This is sometimes done in the waiting area or over the video link. They will continue without wigs and gowns throughout the hearing if your child wishes.
Where will the lawyers and the defendant be?
By law, when your child gives evidence, lawyers and the defendant in the case must still be in court. They will be in the main courtroom, and the defendant will be in the dock. This is to make sure the trial is fair and your child’s evidence can be used.
In some circumstances the video screen in the courtroom can be shielded from the defendant so they can hear the evidence but not see the child on the screen. This is a decision for the judge. Find out more about the special measures your child could receive.
Will my child see the defendant?
Your child will only see the lawyers asking the questions and the judge in the case.
Can I stay with my child in the video room?
You’ll be able to sit with your child in the waiting area in the witness suite, which is away from public areas. The Witness Service will support you and your child before the hearing goes ahead.
But you’re not allowed to enter the video link room with your child. You can sometimes wait outside or, if not giving evidence yourself, you can go into the courtroom and watch the hearing.
What happens after the recording?
After the recording, the lawyers or the judge will let you know when you can leave the court.
Court staff share the recording with the lawyers so they can review it before the trial date. At the trial, court staff play the recording to the jury instead of your child giving their evidence in person. After the trial, the courts hold the recording in secure storage for a period. It’s then deleted when it’s no longer needed and the lawyers on the case won’t be able to access it 28 days after the trial.
Why pre-record my child’s evidence for the trial?
Trials can sometimes be months after reporting a crime. We know that waiting for a trial to go ahead and giving evidence in front of a full courtroom puts a lot of pressure on your child. Recording the evidence before the trial can help your child to feel less stressed and remember as much as possible about what they told the police. The court will decide whether to use this special measure, but they will take yours and your child’s views into consideration.
When you report a crime to the police, everything about that crime is then called the case.
A person who can help you understand what is being said in court. They can also help other people in court understand your answers to any questions.
The police officer in charge of your case who can keep you up to date with the investigation. You can call them on 101 and give your crime reference number to be put through to the right person.
The extra support a court can provide to help vulnerable or intimidated witnesses give their best evidence. These measures could include putting screens around the witness box.
The people at court who provide practical and emotional support to witnesses.
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