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Witness in a Criminal Trial
Most criminal trials take place in a Magistrates' Court. Magistrates hear the evidence and decide the guilty or innocence of the accused. If he is found guilty, the Magistrates usually decide on the sentence. The magistrates are normally three Justices of the Peace, or there may be just one qualified lawyer magistrate. In Court there will also be one solicitor who argues for the prosecution, and one who argues for the defendant.
More serious cases go to the Crown Court. A jury of twelve members of the public decide whether the defendant is guilty. The judge decides any sentence. Judges and other lawyers who speak in Crown Courts wear black gowns and wigs. In Crown Courts there are two barristers instead of solicitors. One arguing for the prosecution and the other for the defendant.
As well as being a witness in a straightforward criminal case. you may be involved in a committal hearing at a magistrates' court to decide whether there is enough evidence for a trial in a Crown Court. Or you may be involved in an appeal against conviction which will be in front of a judge in a Crown Court. but with magistrates instead of a jury.
In both types of court there will be a clerk who is responsible for running the proceedings. In a magistrates' court. the clerk also advises on legal matters.
You will also see court ushers who call witnesses, take messages. and generally help to run the court.
There may be other people in court such as police and probation officers. newspaper reporters and members of the public.
Before you go to court:
When you arrive at Court
Some cases are delayed or even put off until another date. This may be because an earlier case has gone on longer than expected or an important person in the case has not arrived. Sometimes a defendant pleads guilty on the day of the trial so witnesses are told at the last minute that their evidence is not needed.
You can claim expenses for travelling to court, and there is an allowance for meals and other things related to your appearance in court. such as lost wages. If you haven't already got a claim form, ask the solicitor or barrister how your expenses will be paid. In some cases advance payments can be made.
|Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.|
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