Once the matter has had its first hearing at Court the case is allocated to a Witness Care Officer. The Witness Care Officer is the specific point of contact (SPOC) for each victim of crime and is there to provide updates as the case progresses through the court system.
The Witness Care Unit will support both victims and witnesses on their journey through the Criminal Justice System until the case is finalised, including referrals under the Victim Contact Scheme, where appropriate, and any subsequent appeals. The Witness Care Officer will discuss a contact plan and ensure the relevant updates are provided in terms of the progression of the case, or the requirement to attend court to give evidence.
If a defendant enters a Not Guilty plea at court, the Witness Care Officer will fully assess individual witness needs. The Witness Care Unit understands how difficult this can be and has a wealth of experience in supporting people throughout this journey. Through the Needs Assessment, the Witness Care Officer can identify needs including:
- Vulnerability of victim/witness
- A need for referrals to specialist support agencies (e.g. a Domestic Violence support agency or Victim Support)
- A need for a pre-trial court visit and trial date support with Witness Service
- Any special needs e.g. language barriers, disabilities, learning difficulties
- Any childcare or transport needs
- Any religious or cultural needs
- A wish to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) or to add to an existing VPS
- A possible need for special measures at court e.g. screens or video-link, removal of judge’s wigs/gowns
- The requirement of a restraining order where appropriate
A victim's/witness's needs are continually assessed during the contact with the Witness Care Unit, and the Witness Care Officer will endeavour to meet these needs as best as possible through close liaison with Police Officers, the CPS, Witness Service and other voluntary agencies.
The Witness Care Unit has obligations under the Victims' Code of Practice and the Witness Charter is available to view at Gov.uk website.