Annex 2 BEING A WITNESS LEAFLET
As a witness you have a key role to play in the Criminal Justice system. We understand that you may be unfamiliar with how the court works and may feel nervous about giving evidence. We hope that this leaflet helps to answer some of your questions and gives you information about people who can help you through the court process.
ARRIVING AT COURT
Remember to take your Citation and Expenses Form with you to court. Ask any court official where you should go. Show the official your Citation and you will be directed to the correct waiting room for witnesses. You must not go into the courtroom itself before you have given evidence. By arriving promptly and going to the correct waiting room you will help the court to start on time. Take something to pass the time, as you may have to wait for a while before being called into court.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
It is not possible to predict how long proceedings will take. You must be prepared to stay all day if necessary. A court official will keep you informed about the progress of your case. If you are no longer required to give evidence, for example because an accused person has changed their plea to guilty on the day of the trial, you will be released as soon as possible. Until you are advised by a court official that you can leave, you must stay in the court building.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
When it is your turn to give evidence a court official will call your name and show you to a witness box in the court. The Judge will ask you take an oath before God to tell the truth. If you prefer not to take an oath you may ask to affirm that you will tell the truth. In the Sheriff Court the Judge is called "my Lord" or "my Lady" and in the District Court the Judge is called "Your Honour". You should stand when giving your evidence unless this would be difficult for you, in which case ask the Judge if you can sit down.
The first person to ask you questions will be the Procurator Fiscal who represents the prosecution. You will be asked your name, address, age and occupation. If you do not wish your address to be given out in court ask the Judge if you can write it down.
The Procurator Fiscal and then the defence lawyer will ask you questions about the case. In cases with more than one accused the defence lawyer for each accused may ask you questions. Sometimes the Judge may also ask questions.
It will help the court and your confidence if you listen carefully to what you are asked. Take your time in answering and say if you do not understand or do not know the answer. It is your duty to answer all of the questions asked truthfully and as accurately as you can. Speak slowly and clearly.
The Judge will tell you when you are free to go after you have given evidence. You can stay and listen to the rest of the case if you wish. You must not return to the witness room after giving evidence in court or discuss your evidence with other witnesses who have still to give their evidence.
Use the Expenses Claim Form on the back of the Citation to claim travelling expenses to and from court and money for meals. Please follow the instructions on the Expenses Form if you require to claim for loss of earnings or child minding expenses.
You may claim your expenses by posting the completed form to the Procurator Fiscal's Office. Prepaid envelopes and instructions on how to complete the claim are available at the court.
DISABLED AND ELDERLY WITNESSES
If you are disabled or elderly and restricted in your movements you may hire a taxi for your journey to and from court. You must obtain a receipt from the driver in order to claim the expenses for your fare.
PEEBLES SHERIFF COURT
Peebles Sheriff Court sits at the Sheriff Court House, Rosetta Road, Peebles, EH45 8JG. A map is attached with information about buses and car parking.
There is no facility to pay expenses from the Peebles Court. The Procurator Fiscal's office is at the Sheriff Court House, Ettrick Terrace, Selkirk, TD7 4LE. You can post your completed Expenses Form to the Procurator Fiscal's office and your expenses will be sent to you. Prepaid envelopes are available at the Peebles Court.
There is easy access to the courthouse. The courtrooms are on the ground floor. You can contact the Sheriff Court on 01721 720204 if you want more information.
There are no facilities in the courthouse. The court normally shuts for lunch between 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm and you will be able to go for lunch at that time. There are places to eat nearby.
HELP AND ADVICE FOR WITNESSES AND VICTIMS OF CRIME
VICTIM SUPPORT SCOTLAND: Provides practical advice, emotional support and assistance to people affected by crime. The service is free and confidential. To contact your nearest service call 0845 603 9213 or look under Victim Support in the telephone directory.
THE WITNESS SERVICE: The Witness Service exists to help people through the judicial process by providing practical and emotional support. The facility is set up in the Sheriff Court building and is provided by trained volunteers managed by paid staff. The Service is free and confidential and is available to all witnesses attending court. The Service also supports families and friends of witnesses. To contact your local Witness Service call 0131 220 1550 or when you arrive at court on the day of the trial ask a court official to direct you to the Witness Service.
DATA PROTECTION ACT
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service holds data about you as a witness for the Crown for the purpose of prosecuting offenders. Your name and address will be disclosed to the Witness Service to enable them to offer you assistance. You do not have to take up this offer of support, and involvement with the Witness Service is on a purely voluntary basis.