Assistance for Witnesses

If you have to give evidence in court, you can usually expect to be in the same room as the defendant. Because this can be embarrassing or threatening for some people, some ways have been developed to make it easier to give evidence.
The Police Victim Contact Officer, the Witness Assistance Service (attached to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) and the (non-government) Victim Support Service can help you. If you are over 16 years of age, and a recent victim of rape or sexual assault, Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service can provide extensive information, counselling and support. You will find the phone numbers for these agencies listed under the Who Can Help section of the website. If you are under 16, and have been raped or sexually abused, you should contact Family and Youth Services or the police. The Child Abuse Report Line's phone number is 13 14 78. Victims of domestic, or family, violence will also find support services listed on those pages.
Either the Witness Assistance Service (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions), or the Court Companion Service (Victim Support Service), can take you to the court. They can show you a courtroom, and talk to you and your family about who will be where in the courtroom when the court sits, and what will happen. They can tell you about your rights, or help you get the services you need. They can help you prepare a Victim impact statement.
The Witness Assistance Officer can also provide information specially prepared for child witnesses. They will be offered information and support by a Child Witness Assistance Officer.
Both the Witness Assistance Service (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) and the Victim Support Service can refer you to appropriate agencies for ongoing counselling. Yarrow Place can offer short-term and ongoing counselling, and provides free seminars on the justice system, including information on giving evidence.
If you need assistance or you have concerns when you attend the court, you can speak to the Sheriff's Officer in the court. Sheriff's Officers are trained to assist persons attending the courts, and can help with the special needs of victims and witnesses.
Some courts have a special waiting room for witnesses who may feel vulnerable when waiting to go into the courtroom. The Sheriff's Officer can assist you to access the room, or, if it is not available, find you a safe place to wait.
The court may allow some witnesses to give their evidence by closed circuit television or videoconferencing from outside the courtroom in some circumstances. Alternatively, a screen can be put between the accused and the witness in the courtroom. Tell the prosecutor if you want him or her to make an application to the court for either of these arrangements to be made.
The magistrate or judge will make a decision on what special protection arrangements can be made. You will be told the decision as soon as it is made. If you want information about this, you can ask the prosecutor, Witness Assistance Officer or Sheriff's Officer.
Last Modified: 31 January 2012