Guide

Being a witness at court

Last updated: 29 June 2017

Before the court date

Going to your witness interview

Sometimes in criminal court cases, you may be asked to go for a witness interview – called a precognition – before the trial starts.

You'll get a letter – called a citation – from the Procurator Fiscal or defence lawyer that asks you to go to a meeting so they can take a statement from you.

You must give a precognition statement if asked for one.

A precognition statement is different from a victim statement or any statement you may have already given to the police.

The Children's Reporter in a Children's Hearing court case usually relies on background reports and statements to prepare a case, but sometimes they might want to meet with you before the trial.

There may be other lawyers who want to speak with you, either on behalf of the accused or for another person involved in the case. This is a normal part of the preparation of a court case.

You can decide when and where to meet with the lawyers. If you have any questions about these meetings, you should discuss this with the person who asked you to be a witness.

Visiting court before the trial

If you're a witness in a criminal court case, the Witness Service can arrange for you to visit the court before the trial starts, so you know what to expect. If you've already been contacted by the Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service, they can arrange a court visit for you too.

Court familiarisation visits can also be arranged by the Children's Reporter in Children's Hearing court cases, and the lawyer who cited you to a civil court case.

Find out more about what types of court there are and what each one does.

Getting time off work

By law, your employer must let you have time off work for the duration of the trial. Let them know you've been asked to give evidence as soon as possible.

You may be able to claim back any loss of earnings if you're employed or self employed.

Organising childcare

There are no childcare facilities at court. Children under the age of 14 aren't allowed in court unless they're giving evidence.

You may be able to claim expenses for childcare and babysitting from the person who cited you as a witness.

Talking about what you will say in court

You can only talk with your lawyer about what you will say in court. This is because talking to other people may confuse or change what you'll say. You should only tell the court the truth about what you remember.

It is against the law for anyone to try to persuade you to change your mind about what you're going to say in court. You must tell your lawyer, or the police, if this happens.

Claiming expenses

You may be able to claim expenses for things like:

  • loss of earnings
  • childcare
  • travel to and from the court

There may be some things you need to agree in advance with the person who cited you before you can claim.

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Being a witness at court
Before the court date