Before the court date
If you help the person you care for understand what it means to be a witness, they'll be more able to tell the court what they know.
The person you care for may never have been in a court before. It can help if they understand how the court works and the importance of a witness giving their evidence.
Download 'I am a witness in court' – an easy read guide for people with learning disabilities.
What you can do in advance
Explain what the citation means
The witness will be sent a letter – called a citation – telling them where and when they must appear in court. Tell the person who cited them right away if there's an important reason why the witness cannot make the court date.
If the person you care for has a job or attends a day service, they may need to inform their employer or care provider in advance that they need time off for the court case.
Help the witness take part in precognition
Before the court date the witness may be asked to attend a meeting with the Procurator Fiscal, a lawyer or the Children's Reporter. This is to help them know as much about the case as possible. Sometimes this is called a witness interview.
They'll usually want to speak to the witness alone, but you may be contacted in advance to clarify the witness's level of understanding and ability to communicate.
You may be asked to be present at the interview, as long as you're not a witness in the case and will not affect the interview and evidence.
Contact the Procurator Fiscal, lawyer or Children's Reporter with relevant information
The witness may have specific difficulties or needs that might affect their ability to give evidence. It's important you tell the person who asked them to be a witness so they can help.
Help identify the person as a potential vulnerable witness
A person with a learning disability might be considered as a particularly vulnerable witness and qualify to use a special measure – like using a screen or being in a different room while they give evidence.
When the Procurator Fiscal, lawyer or Children's Reporter makes an application to the court for special measures, they must include the views of the witness.
You can help make sure the witness understands what special measures are.
Find out about the court's facilities
Visit the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website to find information about the court including:
- how to get there
- where to report on arrival
- accessibility information
- contact details
- refreshment facilities
Help the witness to visit court before they need to go
It can make it easier for the person you care for to visit the court they need to go to. The court is empty when you visit, but they can also see a court in action, so they know what to expect.
You can contact the Witness Service to arrange a visit.
If the person you care for is a victim of crime, they may be especially nervous or worried about going to court. You can offer support and reassurance.
If you think the person you care for might benefit from counselling while waiting for a case to go to court, speak to the person who asked them to be a witness for advice.
Find support for yourself
Your local carers' group or carers centre may also be able to direct you to emotional support.
What you cannot help with
There are things you cannot do for the person you care for. They are the witness, so they'll need to talk to lawyers and give evidence in their own words.
You must not:
- discuss their evidence
- coach them in what to say
- help them rehearse what to say