Advice on Attending Court

All extracts are taken from the “Safer Doors” book. Published by Geddes and Grossett. Copyright laws apply.

If someone is charged by the police with a criminal offence, then the matter will normally proceed to a hearing at either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. The magistrates or the jury in those proceedings will, after hearing all of the evidence from witnesses from both sides, decide on the guilt or innocence of the person on trial.

If a door supervisor was involved in the incident in any way, and made a formal written statement to the police, then he will most likely be called to give his written evidence orally during those court proceedings.

Most cases are sent to the Magistrates Court first of all. Some cases, those deemed less serious, can be heard and decided upon in that court. More serious cases, however, may be passed on to the Crown Court which generally deals with the more serious crimes, and so may hand out heavier sentences.

MAGISTRATES COURTS
The bench of a Magistrates Court will normally comprise of between one and seven magistrates, who act as both judge and jury. Stipendiary magistrates are experienced barristers or solicitors, whereas Justices of the Peace are ordinary members of the local community who generally have no formal legal qualifications. Deciding the case in a magistrate’s court will be either a lone stipendiary magistrate or a bench of two or more Justices of the Peace who have been appointed by the Crown. Their job is to decide whether or not the case in question is proved, and to impose sentences where appropriate. They do this after receiving legal advice from a full-time magistrate’s clerk, who is a legally qualified person.

Magistrates should be referred to as either “Your Worship” or “Your Worships”.

CROWN COURTS
Crown Court cases are generally held before a judge and jury. The jury consists of twelve ordinary members of the public who will have been selected for jury service from the electoral register. It is their job to decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused person, and they do this after listening to and evaluating all of the facts in the case, and having been legally advised by the judge. If the person is found guilty of the offence for which he is on trial then the judge imposes the sentence he or she feels appropriate.

High Court judges should be referred to as “My Lord” or “My Lady”, whereas circuit judges and

recorders in Crown Courts are referred to as “Your Honour”.

FUNCTION OF A COURT
The basic function of a court is to determine whether an offence has been committed, and whether the defendant committed it.

To do this the prosecution has to present factual evidence to the court relating to the offence and the accused. It does this by evaluating the written statements that have been taken by the police during the course of the investigation, and calling certain witnesses to give their evidence to the court to assist it in the decision-making process.

The defence, who represent the accused person, has to present factual evidence to the court to show that the defendant did not commit the offence, or that no offence was actually committed.

CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE (CPS)
All prosecutions are now conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), an independent authority which prosecutes offenders in the name of the Crown. Their job is to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction, and whether or not a prosecution would be in the public interest. Although the CPS does not act directly on behalf of the victims in the case, it is supposed to consider their interests when deciding on how cases should be handled.

ATTENDING COURT
If you are required to give evidence at court you will be informed of the place, date and time in advance. Ensure that you arrive at the court in plenty of time, and tell the court staff that you are there. The CPS representative or the police officer in charge of the case may wish to speak to you before the case, and you will probably want to have another look at a copy of your original statement before you are called into court.

You are allowed to sit at the back of the court to watch other cases before yours, and to familiarise yourself with the layout and the proceedings, but you must leave the court and wait outside as soon as the case in which you are a witness begins.

YOUR ROLE
All that you as a witness are required to do is to give your evidence as clearly and concisely as possible. You are there to help the court to reach a decision on the basis of the evidence put before it. You just have to explain what you have seen, heard and done, and to do so honestly and impartially.

Door supervisors are not professional witnesses and are not expected to demonstrate any special court skills. The court just wants to hear the true facts.

OATH/AFFIRMATION
When you are called into court to give your evidence you will be shown into the witness box by the court usher. You will then be sworn in as a witness by taking either the oath or the affirmation. The oath is taken by holding the bible in your raised right hand and swearing, “I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

If you do not accept the bible as binding on your conscience, you may affirm that you will tell the truth instead. You do this by saying, “I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

You will then be asked to confirm your name, age and occupation, and you will then be asked questions relating to your evidence.

GIVING EVIDENCE
The credibility of a door supervisor’s evidence, and even the final outcome of the case, can be affected by the way in which he conducts himself in the witness box. His appearance, demeanor and manner can all help or hinder how he comes across to the magistrates or the jury, and therefore can affect how his evidence is received.

Supervisors should appear smartly dressed and clean to make a good impression. It shows a level of professionalism, and respect to the court.

They should speak calmly, confidently and clearly whilst giving evidence, and try to address the magistrates or the judge with the appropriate terms. Replies to questions should be given in a pleasant, courteous and helpful manner. Stand up straight and smartly when in the witness box, as this creates a far more professional impression than slouching or leaning against the box.

In some courts the clerk has to write down everything that a witness says, so try to speak slightly slower and clearer than usual. You do not have to use any legal terms or special phrases when giving your evidence, just give the evidence as you see it. Slang or swear words should not be used unless you are quoting something that somebody else has actually said. You should try to be yourself as much as possible, whilst presenting a professional attitude to the proceedings.

You should not give opinion in your evidence unless you are specifically asked to do so. Stick to the facts of the events as they happened.

If you have made a mistake whilst giving your evidence you should say so at the earliest opportunity. It is quite stressful being cross-examined about something you have said, so people are allowed to make mistakes. If you have said something wrong, or omitted to mention an important point, or are unsure about something – say so. If, on the other hand, the defence tries to say that you are lying about a particular part of your evidence, or that you are mistaken in what you saw or heard, then do not yield but make your position clear to the court in a firm but courteous way.

YOUR STATEMENT
You will usually have had a chance to read over your original statement prior to being called into the courtroom to give your evidence. Further to that statement, though, you may also have made notes in your notebook or in a log-book at the time of the incident which may be relevant to the proceedings.

These notes may be used as you give your evidence, to give specific times or details of what someone said, provided that permission is given by the court first. They will normally only be allowed if they were made at the time of or soon after the incident.

When using such notes in conjunction with your statement you should only refer to them for specific points. You will not necessarily be expected to read through them all in court. The court would much rather hear you explain your evidence in normal, everyday language.

CROSS-EXAMINATION
The examination-in-chief is where, having taken the oath or affirmation, the witness gives his initial version of the events as asked by the prosecutor. Once this is concluded the defence gets its turn to ask the same witness a series of questions. It is here that the defence cross-examines you on the evidence that you have already given to the court. The defence will be working from the accused’s version of what happened, and will try to test your evidence, which may well conflict with what the accused has told him.

As you are cross-examined about your evidence you must not be led into an argument. The defence may attack your powers of observation, hearing or memory, or may even call you a liar. If you remain calm and do not lose your temper you should be able to effectively answer any questions that are put to you. Be firm but courteous.

You should listen to the questions carefully and think about the answer before giving it. If you do not fully understand what is being asked say so, and the question will be put to you in another way. Where appropriate answer questions with a simple ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘I don’t know’. Generally speaking the shorter the answer you give the better.

Lastly, do not be rushed into an answer. Think about what is being asked, think of your answer and then give it.

When the cross-examination is over you should remain in the witness box. The prosecution may wish to re-examine certain points in your evidence for the court, or to explain any ambiguities. Once the magistrate tells you that you can leave the witness box you can either leave the court altogether, or sit at the back of the court and listen to the rest of the case.

COMPENSATION
If you are the actual victim in the case, such as if you are assaulted by a drunken aggressive customer who is subsequently charged with the assault against you, then you may be able to get compensation in a number of different ways:-

  • compensation order against the offender
  • civil action against the offender
  • compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

COMPENSATION ORDERS
If someone is caught and convicted of a criminal offence the court may order the offender to pay the victim compensation for any injury, loss or damage that they have suffered as a direct result of the crime. You cannot apply for this yourself, so it is important that you tell the police, who in turn will inform the CPS that you want to receive compensation. if the accused is found guilty.

You should give them accurate details of your losses or expenses, with documentary evidence (receipts etc). You can be paid compensation for personal injury; losses because of theft of, or damage to, property; losses because of fraud; loss of earnings while off work; medical expenses; travelling expenses; pain and suffering.

It is up to the court to consider the question of compensation in every appropriate case, and to decide whether to order the offender to pay compensation to the victim, and if so how much. The court has to take into account the offender’s financial circumstances and ability to pay, so if such an order is made it will not necessarily be for the full amount of your loss.

CIVIL ACTION
No matter what the result of the criminal court case, you may still be able to sue the offender for damages in a civil court. You can enquire about how to do this through a solicitor, or by contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

CRIMINAL INJURIES COMPENSATION SCHEME
If you have been injured because of a crime of violence you can apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. It does not matter whether the offender has been caught, but there are other rules that will determine whether or not you receive compensation. You can find out more from the leaflet “Victims of Crimes of Violence, a guide to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme” which is available from the police, Victim Support schemes, your local Citizens Advice Bureau. You can find out more about the scheme itself and obtain an application form by writing to:-

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Tay House
300 Bath Street
Glasgow
G2 4JR
Tel:- 0141 331 2726
Fax:- 0141 331 2287

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