Day of Trial
On the day of the trial, you will have a period when you are waiting to be called to give your evidence and a period when you are giving your evidence. Once you have given evidence, you are usually free to go.
Before Giving Evidence
Arrive in good time and check-in with the court personnel at the main desk on arrival. You will be directed to the witness room. Prosecution (Crown) and Defence witnesses for the same case will not be in the same witness room.
- Victim Support Scotland witness service personnel will come and speak with you. We offer emotional and practical support to all witnesses who come to court.
- Witness service personnel cannot:
- Discuss specific details of the trial
- Discuss evidence
- Give legal advice
- Access court systems
- Authorise you to leave the witness room or court
- Arrange taxis or transport
Length of Trial
- Trials involving Sheriffs only typically last one day.
- Trials involving a Sheriff and jury will typically last more than one day.
- Listen to any updates given to you by the court officials (usually a court officer). You should never leave the witness room until the court officer tells you to do so.
Called to Give Evidence
When it is time for you to give evidence, a court officer will come to the witness room and call your name. Take all of your belongings with you. The court officer will escort you into the court and direct you to the witness box.
Officials in the Court
The senior official in the court is the Sheriff. The other officials in the court will be:
- The sheriff clerk, who sits just beneath the sheriff
- The procurator fiscal (sometimes called PF) who is the public prosecutor
- The defence lawyer
- A police officer
Jurors & Court Layout
We will not be able to tell you in advance where the accused will be sitting as you may be required to identify the accused to the court as part of your evidence.
Oath or Affirmation
The Sheriff will ask you to raise your right-hand and repeat the oath or its non-religious equivalent (the affirmation). In either case, the purpose is the same – you are stating to the court that you will tell the truth.
In the Witness Box
- Normally you stand whilst in the witness box, but if you find it difficult to stand for long periods, you may ask to sit down.
- There is no set time for you to spend in the witness box. If you are a witness for the prosecution (the Crown) then you will have to answer questions from the procurator fiscal first and then the defence agent. The procurator fiscal is then entitled to ask some further questions. If you are a defence witness, the process is the same, but the defence agent is the first to ask questions. The number of questions and the length of time you take to answer them will determine how long you spend in the witness box.
- Listen to each question and answer it truthfully. If you don’t know the answer, can’t remember or don’t understand the question, please say so.
Finishing Giving Evidence
- Once you have finished giving evidence, the Sheriff will thank you for coming and usually say that you are free to go.
- You can usually sit in the public seating of the court or leave court at this point. You cannot return to the witness room.
After Giving Evidence
Witnesses can claim expenses for coming to court. The claim form is on the reverse of the citation. Once completed, it can be handed in at the court or posted for the procurator fiscal’s office. If you are a defence witness, you can get a claim form from the defence lawyer’s office.
Outcome of the Trial
You will not be contacted routinely about the outcome of the trial in which you have given evidence, but you can find the outcome by calling the court you gave evidence in after 4pm the same day or the next day.
Victim Notification Scheme
If you are a victim of certain crimes and the outcome of the trial is a custodial sentence of a certain length, you may be entitled to join the Victim Notification Scheme. The Scheme gives you the right to receive information about the offender's progression within prison and eventual release. Please speak to our Victim Service for further information about this. You can contact the Victim Service via our Helpline number (0800 160 1985) or via your local Victim Support Scotland office.
Special Measures For Vulnerable Witnesses
Special measures are intended to help vulnerable witnesses by providing appropriate support when they give their evidence. This was first introduced by allowing child witnesses (under 16 years) and witnesses identified as vulnerable the opportunity to give their evidence from behind a screen or via a TV link, for example. Recent changes in the law have expanded this.
For cases reported to the Procurator Fiscal on or after the 1st of September 2015, If you are a witness who is:
- under the age of 18 at the start of the legal proceedings; or
- a “deemed vulnerable witness”, i.e. a victim of:
- A sexual offence
- Human trafficking
- Domestic abuse
you are automatically entitled to give your evidence using a TV link, a screen or a supporter. These are considered standard special measures. Other special measures (e.g. a closed court), are available, but on application only.
For witnesses, where:
- there is significant risk that the quality of the evidence will be diminished due to a mental disorder, of fear or distress in connection with giving evidence
- there is a significant risk of harm associated with the person giving evidence
an application for an appropriate special measure will need to be made.
If you would like to discuss support you may be entitled to in court or concerns in relation to giving evidence, please contact your local Victim or Witness Service or Victim Information and Advice (VIA).