New service for trial witnesses

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Volunteers are needed so that children and victims of domestic abuse giving evidence in court can be supported before, during and after a trial.

Citizens Advice – which provides free practical and emotional support for witnesses in all criminal courts across England and Wales via the Witness Service – has completed the rollout of a new service providing extra support to those most in need.

They are now recruiting volunteers to join their ranks.

The new outreach service gives vulnerable and initimidated witnesses – including under-18s and people with mental health problems – the option to be visited at home or to meet at another safe community location ahead of giving evidence and after the trial has finished.

During visits, a Witness Service volunteer or staff member talks the witness through what they should expect on the day of the trial, their rights, who will be in court and the reasons a trial might not go ahead.

The witness then has the option to visit the court building before the trial, and the same volunteer or staff member will support the witness when they attend court to give evidence.

The Citizens Advice Witness Service is run by 270 staff and 2,800 volunteers. It supported more than 178,000 witness between April 2015 and March 2016.

Team leader Linda Wilding said: “The most vulnerable witnesses in our area can now get extra support which starts before they even set foot in court.

“Taking part in a case can be a daunting experience and we know witnesses value speaking to someone in person about what to expect before a trial starts.”

She added: “We’re looking for new volunteers to join us. You don’t need prior experience and full training and support will be offered.”

Anyone over 18 can apply. All volunteers receive five days training which can be tailored to suit people’s needs. There are also opportunities to shadow Witness Service staff.

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