If you are a victim or other key witness in a serious criminal matter, the ODPP prosecutor will talk to you before your court date about giving evidence and being cross examined. If you have a WAS officer they will also help you feel prepared, and can give you a tour of the courtroom.
- A courtroom tour, and other ways WAS can support you
If you have a WAS officer, they will spend time with you before the trial or hearing starts.
If you think it would be helpful, they can give you a tour of a courtroom and explain who is who and what they do. They can also arrange to meet you at court on the day you are due to give evidence.
WAS officers are not lawyers and can’t provide legal advice but they understand the criminal justice system and can talk to you about what to expect in court and about any concerns you may have. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions, even if it’s about something that’s already been explained to you. It can be very difficult to take in the amount of information you will be given, particularly after a traumatic experience.
If you need extra support, WAS officers can also refer you to specialist services.
- Preparing yourself
It’s a good idea to take some time before you go to court to think about the incident that led to the court case.
What happened first? What happened next? Try to remember details like dates, times, descriptions, actions and the exact words people used.
Re-read the statement you gave to police. You will usually not be able to look at it while you are in the witness box, and it may have been months since you last saw it. There is no need to memorise it – your answers to questions in court have to be your honest memory of what happened.
If you don’t have a copy of your statement, you can ask the police officer in charge of the matter (the OIC) or the ODPP prosecutor for one.
It is important not to discuss your evidence with other witnesses.
- Delays and adjournments
Court matters are often delayed or adjourned to later in the day, or to another day. This can be frustrating and upsetting, especially if you have spent time preparing to give evidence and feel ready to do so, and have made the time and effort to travel to court. Reasons for delays and adjournments include witnesses not being available; courts not being available; the accused not having a lawyer, or changing their lawyer; the accused needing psychiatric or psychological assessment; or the prosecution waiting on crucial evidence.
If your court date is moved in advance, you will be notified of this. If you have internet access, you can check the court website yourself, the evening before the trial is due to start. It will have a list of all the matters before the court and will show the name of the accused, the time the matter starts, the location of the court and the courtroom number.
- Who will contact you and who shouldn’t contact you?
As a victim or other witness in a serious crime, you are likely to be contacted by a number of people from the prosecution team. They are:
- the police officer in charge of the matter (the OIC)
- a solicitor or a barrister from the ODPP
- the ODPP’s WAS, if you are a vulnerable witnesses.
They will talk with you at different times during the legal process. You can also contact them if you have any questions or concerns.
It’s important not to have any contact with the accused, as this may affect the case. If the accused tries to contact you, whether it’s to try and threaten or scare you or to apologise for their actions, tell the police officer in charge.
The accused’s lawyer is allowed to contact you, but it would be rare if they did and you should let the ODPP know if this happens.
- Meeting the prosecutor
If you are a victim or another key witness in a case, the ODPP prosecutor will want to talk to you before you give your evidence. We call these meetings ‘conferences’. Usually, the prosecutor will ask you to come to the ODPP’s office. If you have a WAS officer, they can attend too.
We hold these conferences to discuss your evidence and what will happen in court.
For victims, it is also to make sure you have all the information you need to make decisions in the case.
Some of the things the prosecutor is likely to talk to you about are:
- your witness statement
- the main steps in a criminal case
- their role as a prosecutor and your role as a witness
- what to expect when you give evidence, including when you are cross-examined
- court behaviour, like bowing when you enter and leave the courtroom, and addressing the magistrate and judge as ‘Your Honour’
- the charges against the accused, and why they sometimes change
- special arrangements available to vulnerable witnesses, such as giving evidence from another room
- whether you need an interpreter
- any special needs you may have
- travel and accommodation arrangements
- witness expenses.
The prosecutor will either be a Crown Prosecutor, who is a barrister, or a Solicitor Advocate, who is a solicitor. You can them ask any questions you have.
You can claim witness expenses for attending a conference at the ODPP, just like you can when you attend court.
Sometimes, it won’t be practical or possible for witnesses to come to the ODPP's office for a conference. If you have a smart phone or a computer, you may be able to talk to the prosecutor from your home or somewhere else that suits you using AVL technology. If coming to our office will be difficult, ask the prosecutor about whether a ‘remote’ conference is possible.