Preparing for Court
We have agreements in place with other agencies to ensure that support and information for victims and witnesses is as complete as possible. We have recently revised our protocol – Working Together for Victims and Witnesses – with the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal.
Written Notification (Citation)
If you are required to attend court, you will receive written notification of the date and time at which you must attend. This notification is called a citation. You are required by law to attend and must comply with the request:
- Carefully read the instructions provided with the citation
- Bring the citation with you on the trial date
If travelling by car, plan your car-parking. Most courts do not have a public car-park.
The day’s proceedings usually start at 9.30am and finish around 4:00pm. You will need to arrive at the time stated on your citation. You cannot leave the court until you are dismissed by a court official.
There is no pre-arranged time at which you will be called to give evidence and you should plan to be available for the whole day. If you are participating in a trial by jury, it is possible that you could be required for more than one day.
There is no provision for childcare in court. Childcare is not the responsibility of the court or of the Victim Support Scotland volunteers. You will need to make arrangements for childcare before attending court.
Smoking & Refreshments
- Courts are non-smoking buildings. You will probably have an hour for lunch from 1:00pm to 2:00pm.
- Some courts may have tea and coffee-making facilities and magazines to read, but this is not true of every court.
- Some courts allow you to bring your own refreshments. Please check with your local witness service to find out about arrangements in the court you are attending.
Bring some reading materials or other form of entertainment with you, since you could be waiting for some time to give evidence.
Support in Court
Most courts allow you to bring someone with you as support. They may sit with you until you are called to give evidence.
Courts are public buildings, accessible to all. This means that the accused will have access to the public areas, unless the accused is on remand. Accused persons are not allowed access to the witness room. If you are at all concerned by this, in advance of the trial date, please contact the witness service for the court that you will be attending. You can find the relevant witness service contact details in Witness Support in your area.
Court Familiarisation Visits
We can offer you the opportunity to visit the court in advance of the trial date. Some witnesses find that familiarisation with the court reduces some of the stress and anxiety on the day of the trial. If you wish to do this, please contact the witness service for the court that you will be attending. You can find the relevant witness service contact details in Witness Support in your area.
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).