Going to court
If your case goes to court, Sussex Police will pass your details to a Witness Service who will help you with information and support throughout the trial. For adults, your details will be passed to Citizens Advice Witness Service. For children and young people, if the trial is going to a Magistrates Court, your details will be passed to Citizens Advice Witness Service, if it is going to a Crown Court your details will be passed to the Sussex Young Witness Service.
You can read more about the court system on the Crown Prosecution Service website.
Getting ready to go to court
The Criminal Justice Unit (CJU) will be in touch to make sure you give your best evidence at the trial. They will:
- let you know where and when the trial will happen
- arrange for you to visit the court before the trial starts, so you know what to expect
- help you get to the trial and give evidence, e.g. by arranging child care or transport
Understanding what might happen
Court dates may change. Due to the number of cases and courtrooms available, trials often get cancelled at late notice and rescheduled. They may also take place in a court outside of Sussex.
There is a possibility of seeing the offender and their family and friends in the court building, due to communal areas and waiting rooms. You can speak to the witness service and the CJU about this and whether you may be able to enter in a separate entrance and wait in a separate room, if available.
If you've given a statement, you'll be able to see it again before you give evidence at court so you remember what you have previously said.
Helping you give your best evidence
If you're giving evidence the Judge or Magistrates might decide to give you extra help, called 'special measures'. These special measures could include:
- putting screens around the witness box
- giving evidence by live video link so you don't have to face the suspect or their family
- asking the public to leave the courtroom when you're giving evidence
HMCTS have produced two video guides to support children attending court in a pre-recorded cross examination hearing and help them give their best evidence. You can watch them on the HMCTS YouTube channel here.
When the trial begins
Where possible, court staff can arrange to let you into the court room through a different door to the defendant and seat you away from their friends and family.
If you're a witness you won't be able to watch the trial until you've given evidence.
You are entitled to read your Victim Personal Statement aloud (or have it read on your behalf), subject to the views of the court, if a defendant is found guilty. You should be asked if you would like to do this, however you can speak to the CJU if this has not been discussed with you.
The verdict and sentencing
The CJU or the investigating officer will tell you the outcome of the trial after being informed by the court. If the defendant is found:
- not guilty- they will be let off the charges against them (known as 'acquitted') and will walk free from the court
- guilty- the judge or magistrates will decide on their sentence
If the CJU or officer can't answer all your questions about the sentence they should put you in touch with the CPS, who will be able to help. They may also refer you to victim services for more help if you need it.
Expenses for going to court
If you've given evidence at the trial, you'll be able to claim some expenses to cover your travel, food, loss of earnings and child care. The CPS representative at court will give you a copy of the expenses form.