FAQs for Witnesses

Does the court cite me to attend as a witness in a case?

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) does not cite witnesses to attend at court. This is the responsibility of the main parties of the case; such as the solicitor for the defence or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

SCTS does, however, understand that coming to court to give evidence can be a daunting prospect for some and we want to make the experience as comfortable and straightforward as possible. We aim to do this by providing suitable facilities and regular updates on the day about progress of the case you are involved in.

Who can I contact before the trial date to provide me with information?

Before the trial date, information is provided by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) if you are a crown witness. If you are a witness for the defence, information is provided by the solicitor who has cited you.

Victims and witnesses have a legal right to request certain information about the case in which they are involved. The Victim and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 specifies different types of information which can be requested. A protocol has been drawn up by Police Scotland, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), as a guide for persons who wish information, to decide which organisation to ask, how to ask and what information you may be given. The protocol also contains styles of request forms which may be used and can be accessed here.

Is it possible for to visit the court before giving evidence?

You can make contact with your local court who will liaise with Victim Support Scotland to ensure requests for court familiarisation visits are responded to within 3 working days. Such requests include allowing access to court rooms and vulnerable witness facilities in advance of the case calling for trial. The opportunity to visit a court room can help to alleviate concerns and assist in gaining a better understanding of the court process as a whole.

This service is also available to children and vulnerable witnesses who intend to give evidence at a remote site or evidence suite.

What happens when I arrive at court?

When you arrive at court please show your citation to a member of staff at the reception desk. They will then direct you to the appropriate waiting areas and rooms for witnesses while you await the start of the court case. A member of court staff will also be able to direct you to the available support services within the building.

Are all witnesses for the same trial sent to the same waiting room?

Separate waiting areas and witness rooms are provided in court buildings for prosecution witnesses and defence witnesses.

Every effort is made to ensure that crown and defence witnesses are kept apart by providing separate waiting rooms. Court buildings, however, are open to the public and it is possible that witnesses and accused persons may encounter each other, for example, when entering or leaving the building. However court staff will try to assist by contacting COPFS Victim Information Advice (VIA) service whenever a request for support is made.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

You should bring your citation with you. You may also want to bring a magazine or book with you to pass the time as you may need to wait for a period of time before your case is called. It is important to remember that a criminal trial may last all day or for more than one day.

What access to refreshments is provided?

Some of the larger courts have a public café or restaurant. In some courts refreshments may be provided by local charitable organisations such as the WRVS and others (usually smaller courts) may have vending machines.

There will be, as a bare minimum, access to fresh drinking water and signs should be located in witness areas with information on facilities that are available and where to find them.

If you wish to know what is available in advance of attending court, you can check the local court information on the court locations section of the SCTS website.

How long will I have to wait until I am called to give evidence on the day of the trial?

On the day you may have to wait for a period of time before the case calls for trial. You should also keep in mind that a trial may last all day or sometimes longer. Occasionally a trial may not go ahead for a variety of reasons but you will be provided with an update when you are informed that you can leave.

There will also be occasions when it is not possible to hear all witnesses and a trial may have to be adjourned to another day. While we appreciate that this can be frustrating, it is important that cases are handled properly and that the evidence of all witnesses is heard.

A court officer will let you know about the progress of the case and tell you when it is your turn to give evidence or when you can leave. It is important that you do not to leave until you have been informed to do so.

How often will I be updated about the case?

SCTS aims to update you on the progress of the court case at least once per hour; where circumstances allow – e.g. there may be times when the court officer is assisting in court with the presentation of evidence. In these circumstances case updates will be provided as soon as possible.

When it is not possible to provide detailed updates, the court officer will still aim to attend the witness rooms hourly. This enables witnesses to ask questions, raise any concerns they may have and/or for support to be provided to those who require it.

In some courts, information about the progress of cases is also provided on wall mounted display screens in waiting areas and in some locations Victim Support Scotland volunteers will also assist by providing information.

Once the trial is underway, the court officer will attend the witness room at regular intervals to keep other witnesses informed. This should include information about when witnesses may leave for lunch, when the case is adjourned or otherwise finished for the day and when witnesses can leave.

It is important that you do not to leave until you have been informed to do so.

What happens when it is my turn to give evidence?

The court officer will collect you from the witness room and escort you to the court room. They will provide you with a brief explanation of the layout of the room before entering so that you know where the witness stand is and they will explain the options available to you when asked by the presiding sheriff/judge if you wish to take the oath or affirm (non-religious oath).

Please note: If you have been granted special measures to give your evidence, for example via live television link (from another room within the court building or another location out with the court building), a member of staff will meet you on the day and explain the process for giving your evidence to court.

How do I claim expenses?

Expenses are normally paid by the party who cited you to attend court. If you are a prosecution witness a claim form would have been attached to your citation. Further information can be obtained on the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service website

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