Supporting a victim who is going to court is an important job, and one you need to take seriously.
What do I have to do?
Your job is to provide a physical presence in the courtroom for the witness while they give evidence.
Depending on the case, you might sit next to the witness while they give evidence, or you might be in the public gallery. If the witness wants you to sit next to them, the prosecutor must first get permission from the Judge.
You have to go to court for as long as it takes the witness to give their evidence. This can take a long time - sometimes longer than expected - and there can be delays.
You have to remain neutral. This can be hard.
Being neutral means you cannot:
- speak to the witness during their evidence
- offer physical or emotional support to the witness
- comfort the witness if they become upset or distressed
- offer verbal support or encouragement to the witness
- express your emotions - either verbally or through facial expressions.
If you don't think you can do this, you should speak to the investigating officer or the Court Support Program .
Things you are not allowed to do
As a support person, you are not allowed to do anything that might influence or interfere with the court case.
There are a number of rules you must follow if you are acting as a support person.
You must not:
- talk about the evidence with the witness
- help the witness prepare their evidence
- help the witness answer questions
- give any body signals to the witness about their evidence
- behave in a way that looks as if you are helping or telling the witness what to say.
You are only allowed to speak if the judge asks you a question.
What happens if I don’t follow the rules?
If you are not behaving appropriately in the courtroom, you might be removed.
If you are not acting in a neutral way, this could also have implications for the case – it could end up as a mistrial, where the jury is thrown out and the case starts again.
Before the witness gives evidence
If there is a jury in the case, they will be told that a support person will be helping the witness.
The judge will also tell them not to draw any negative conclusions about the defendant because the witness has a support person – this is to keep things fair.
Sometimes the defence lawyer might object to you being a support person – this will be raised with you if this happens.
The judge will make the final decision about whether the witness can have a support person or not.
Taking care of yourself
It can be hard to be a support person – court cases can be very confronting, and you might be affected by things you see and hear.
It’s important to take care of yourself and talk about how you are feeling.