Whether you are a victim or a witness at court, the Witness Charter sets out the basic standards of service that you can expect from the criminal justice system in England and Wales.
Key standards of care for witnesses include:
- Having a main point of contact who will keep you informed of the progress of the case and will either provide support or refer you to relevant support agencies.
- The ability to claim expenses for travel to and from the court and compensation for loss of earnings incurred as a result of attending court.
- Having a needs assessment conducted to identify any help that you may need to give evidence during the investigation or in court.
- Receiving special measures if you are considered to be a vulnerable or intimidated witness; these may include allowing you to give evidence from outside of the courtroom via videolink, and the removal of wigs and gowns by judges, defence and prosecution advocates.
- Being given information, or details of where information can be found, about the court and the court process
- Being treated with dignity and respect at all times.
However, unlike the Victims’ Code, there is no legal requirement to meet the standards for witness care set out in the Witness Charter. All the agencies covered by the Charter should comply with the standards wherever possible.
How to make a complaint
If you are a witness of a crime and are unhappy with the level of service that you have received, you can make a complaint through the complaints procedure of the relevant agency, such as the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.
If you have filed a complaint and are still dissatisfied then you can approach the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman with your complaint. You must first contact your MP and ask them to refer your complaint to the Ombudsman as they will not consider cases directly from a member of the public. Remember support services are here alongside statutory ones to make the process easier for you. The Witness Care Unit is there to support all victims and witnesses throughout the court process. You will be assigned a Witness Care Officer who will keep you updated throughout. You can also ask them questions if you need to as well.
The Witness Service, delivered by Citizens Advice, helps victims and witnesses at court on the day. They may also be able to show you around the court ahead of time and talk you through the process of what will happen on the day.
The Victim Care Service provides free, non-judgmental and confidential help to victims of crime, witnesses, their family, friends and anyone else directly affected by crime.
You can take up our support at any time. We can work alongside the Witness Service and continue to support you after the trial.