Do I have to appear as a witness in court for a criminal trial?

Do I have to go to court?

If you are requested to go to court and give evidence in a trial you will receive a document called a subpoena.

What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is an official document which tells you that you must  go to court to give evidence in a particular trial or possibly that you may have to take certain documents to the court. It may be the case that you are requested to do both.

Is it illegal not to turn up at court after or provide documents if I have received a subpoena?

If the subpoena states that you must go to court and give evidence or provide required documents and you fail to appear, then the courts are able to issue a warrant to arrest you and bring you to the court room

If the subpoena instructs you to bring the required documents to the court room and you fail to take them , then the courts will once again have the power to issue a warrant for your arrest and bring you to the courts along with the required documentation.

It is extremely important that you read the subpoena you receive very carefully. This will state exactly what the procedures will be if you fail to do what is required of you.

What happens before I go to court?

After you have received your court date there may be many unanswered questions. How can i take time off work? Who will look after my children?

Don’t panic, the Witness Care Unit will contact you to discuss any questions or needs you may have. You can discuss any worries with this organisation and they will provide you with all the answers you need.

Claiming any expenses incurred as a result of being a witness

If you have to take any time off work, and may possibly have to pay for child care the Witness Care Unit will explain your options. It is usually the case that expenses for attending court will be paid following the trial. If you need help prior to the trial the Witness Care Unit will try and accommodate as best as they can.

Reviewing your statement

It is very possible that you have not seen your written statement or video statement since you gave it to the police after the incident in question. This may have been a long time ago and many details may have been forgotten. You should be given the choice to see it again prior to giving evidence in court. These should re-fresh your memory and allow you to give the best evidence possible. If you are not giving the chance then speak to the Crown Prosecution service and request that you see them again.

What court do I have to attend?

You will receive a letter from the Witness Care Unit that will state the date and time of the trial you are required to attend and also which Court the trial will take place at.

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For more information on:

  • Can I visit the court room before I appear as a witness?
  • What is the Witness service?
  • Worried about seeing other witnesses or the defendant?
  • Going into the courtroom
  • Taking the Oath