Due to COVID 19 the Courts are operating at a lower capacity than usual, listing less trials and trying to minimise the number of people attending court. This may mean that you have been affected by delays to your trial date and we understand this can be frustrating and disappointing for you.
We have set out some useful tips and sources for you below, containing important information to be aware of if you are affected by court delays in London.
Being able to access independent support is important and talking to someone other than your friends and family can often make it easier to speak about how you are feeling about being asked to attend court to give evidence and what support you might need to help you do this.
If you want to discuss the support available to you or require further information about the support the LVWS can offer you please visit the ‘About Us’ page using the drop-down menu above or call the LVWS on 0808 16 89 291.
You can also use our online directory to find more local services tailored to your specific needs: https://www.londonvws.org.uk/directory
We are aware that victims and survivors are experiencing delays for their court cases in criminal, family, and civil courts. If this has happened to you, please make sure to keep in contact with your IDVA/support worker and provide any updates on any recent incidents or communication from your abuser. Remember that even though there are delays to court hearings, you can continue to report any incidents to the police which will be dealt with accordingly.
Here are some further tips to help you stay safe:
There are a range of independent agencies in London that offer services such as helplines, counselling and support through the criminal justice process (including court). This includes specialist agencies supporting women and girls, men and boys or dedicated LGBT+ services. You can search for a service in your area on the London Survivors Gateway online Service Map and approach them directly.
If you are unsure of the most suitable service, have specific service requirements, or you would like to discuss your options, you can contact the London Survivors Gateway by submitting an online form or by calling 0808 801 0860. You may also wish to look at their online self-help resources.
Please be aware that not all services are able to accept referrals at all times and waiting lists are usually in operation. However, there are always options available for confidential emotional support.
My Support Space is a free online resource designed to help you manage the impact that crime has had on you. You can work through a series of interactive guides which address your specific needs. The guides are designed to be completed in your own time and at your own pace. You can save your progress and revisit where you left off at any time.
There's also information about where and how you can access further support, and the opportunity to register with SilverCloud, an online therapy system.
After an offender has been charged it is the responsibility of a Metropolitan Police Service Witness Care Unit to keep you up to date as your case proceeds through the court system. You will be assigned a dedicated Witness Care Officer who will contact you within one working day after the first date of hearing of your case, and they will be responsible for keeping you up to date on key dates and other important information.
They will also conduct a needs assessment with you and discuss any Special Measures you may need to support you giving evidence if required and practicalities such as childcare, travel expenses and communication with an employer if required. If COVID makes attending court more difficult for you, please communicate this with your witness care officer who may be able to speak to the Crown Prosecution Service about you attending court remotely. (Please note any decisions related to your attendance at court are made by the Judge presiding over your case).
If you have not heard from your witness care unit officer, or are confused about the latest update on your case or trial date we recommend that you try to contact them via the following email addresses:
North Witness Care Unit supports the Boroughs of Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow and Islington:
North East Witness Care Unit supports the Boroughs of Havering, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham, Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Hackney:
North West Witness Care Unit supports the Boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster:
South East Witness Care Unit supports the Boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, Bexley, Greenwich and Lewisham:
South West Witness Care Unit supports the Boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton, Kingston, Richmond, Croydon, Sutton and Bromley:
If you are awaiting trial being arranged by the City of London Police and require an update on the progress please contact the Witness Care Team on:
If you are awaiting a trial being coordinated by the British Transport Police and require an update on when the trial will take place please contact:
Once you have received your court date, please take some time to prepare for attending court and what to expect when visiting a court building whilst social distancing measures are in place. Usual processes such as security checks upon entry are likely to take longer and the number of people allowed to enter the building is restricted. HMCTS have published some helpful guidance on how to prepare for court on their website, available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-to-expect-coming-to-a-court-or-tribunal
If your Witness Care Officer has confirmed you are able to give evidence remotely, please ensure you have reviewed the guidance in advance of the trial. It’s important that you:
You will find more detailed guidance on how to test your equipment on the HMCTS website https://www.gov.uk/guidance/what-to-expect-when-joining-a-telephone-or-video-hearing
During Covid-19, emotional and practical support for witnesses on the day of the trial will be provided over the phone by Citizens Advice Witness Service team leaders. They can go through what will happen in court on the day, answer any questions that you may have and guide you through the process of giving evidence.
If you require support on the day of trial whether you are giving evidence in court or remotely from another location please call Citizens Advice Witness Service for support:
(They are happy to call you back if that would be helpful, please just ask)