The OPCC has been releasing information relating to each of the 12 rights within the Victims’ Code for seven weeks now. Each release has covered one or more of the rights.
Right 8 # To be given information about the trial, trial process and your role as a witness
Summary of right 8
If the case goes to court, you have the right to be told by the Witness Care Unit within five working days (one working day under Enhanced Rights) of them receiving the information from the court, which will be within five working days of the outcome of the relevant hearing:
- The time, date and location of any hearing (within one working day for all victims);
- The outcome of any bail hearing (and relevant bail conditions, any relevant changes to these bail conditions and the reasons for those changes);
- If an arrest warrant has been issued for the suspect and the outcome of a hearing if the suspect is re-arrested; and
- The outcome of any hearing if the suspect has been re-arrested.
8.2 If the suspect pleads not guilty and you are required to attend court, you have the right to:
- Be told by the Witness Care Unit if you are required to give evidence within one working day (for all victims) of them receiving the information from the Crown Prosecution Service;
- Have your needs assessed and be offered a referral to a witness support service who can arrange a visit to the court before the trial date to familiarise yourself with the building, or another support service and
- Be told of the outcome of any special measure’s application.
If you are required to give evidence, you will be able to refresh your memory by reading (or watching where it has been recorded) your witness statement. Where possible, if the court allows, the prosecutor will meet you before you go into court to explain what will happen and answer any questions you may have.
If you are a bereaved close relative, you have the right to request, from your Family Liaison Officer or Witness Care Unit, a visit to the court before the trial date to familiarise yourself with the building, regardless of whether you are required to give evidence. You also have the right to be offered a meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor or advocate who will be presenting the case in court. This meeting will usually take place shortly before the trial and is an opportunity for you to be introduced and to ask any questions that you may have.
When attending court, and where possible, you will be able to enter through a different entrance to the defendant and wait in a separate waiting area before and after your case has been heard. Some court buildings do not currently have separate entrances for victims, however, where informed, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service staff will make arrangements to ensure that you do not have to see the defendant on arrival.
During the trial, you may have to wait to give evidence, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service court staff will give you a contact point at the court (who may be a member of a witness support service) to keep you updated on the progress of the trial and they or the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor or advocate will tell you how long you will likely need to wait.
Sometimes you may need to come back to court on another day, if this happens, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service court staff or the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor or advocate will tell you why
Local processes in Bedfordshire, key information and support
Help when attending court
Having to attend court can be a worrying experience for any victim. However, you will be contacted by the Witness Care Unit before the trial.
As well as providing the rights listed above, they can also provide practical guidance and advice to help you. This includes:
- Being told about what to expect in court and answer any questions you might have about the court process;
- If the victim is under 18,
- Being given information for young witnesses;
- Being offered help with directions to the court and planning and/or arranging travel or accommodation;
- Being offered help arranging child care or additional support to allow you to attend court;
- Being given information about claiming witness expenses and allowances;
- Being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will answer any questions you may have about the sentence which the Witness Care Unit is not able to answer; and
- Being offered a referral to services that support victims before, during or after you have attended court
The OPCC’s / Bedfordshire Victim Care Services (BVCS) pledge of how we intend to support the implementation of this right
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) attend various meetings where the court trial processes and witness care are discussed at length. We are only too aware of trial dates being set for 2022 as the courts try and clear the back log of cases due the country being in lockdowns because of the pandemic and we appreciate the uncertainty this causes.
The OPCC’s Victim Care Service, BVCS, understand the impact this can have on Witnesses and Victims and work with Bedfordshire’s Witness Care group to help provide emotional and practical support throughout this stage. We have set a task around these issues in the OPCC’s Victim Needs Analysis as set out below.
Ongoing projects or work relating to the Victims’ Code being undertaken by the OPCC or collaboratively with criminal justice partners
As part of the Victims’ Needs Analysis recently carried out by the OPCC, 28 recommendations were made with a view to improving the victims’ journey. They relate to further work on cultural reviews and data analysis, process changes, training and awareness programmes, victim support and approach to commissioned services across partnerships new processes. Some of the recommendations are relatable to the rights within the Victims’ Code and they will be detailed in these press releases each week.
Our recommendation relating to right 8:
Engaging with victims / witnesses awaiting Court
Feedback from victims and witnesses awaiting court must be collated to understand the impact of prolonged waits for hearings and trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Echo programme could be utilised to collect this data. However, a proactive and preventative approach should also be taken in attempt to prevent the issue of victims and witnesses disengaging due to long waiting times. Further research is needed to understand whether there is a demand for additional resource to engage with those awaiting court and whether this could be met through Signpost. This should be reviewed by the Local Criminal Justice board (LCJB) and the Business Change and Continuous Improvement Board (BCCIB).
To try to better understand what victims and witnesses are going through the Echo programs is being researched by Bedfordshire Police for use.
This application will enable victims and witnesses to provide feedback to Bedfordshire Police therefore enabling them to adapt to what victims and witnesses’ needs are.
BVCS, The OPCC’s Victim Care Service will look to provide practical and emotional support to those that need it.
Being able to understand the needs for victims and witnesses from source will be of huge benefit, not just to the victims and the witnesses but to Bedfordshire Police and the OPCC also.
Being able to understand the needs directly from source will be a valuable asset to Bedfordshire Police to forge better understandings and relationships with victims and witnesses going forward.
Getting support after being affected by crime
If you would like to discuss how you could receive support with coping and recovering from the impact of crime, BVCS can help you. BVCS is free, confidential, available to everyone and is a way for you to find the help that meets your specific needs.
Contact: Bedfordshire Victim Care Services
Freephone: 0800 0282 887
(calls are free from landlines and mobiles)
https://www.bedfordshirevcs.com/ (self-referral form found in the contact page)
Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Closed bank holidays. Out of hours you can leave a voicemail and we will call back.