Most criminal cases and appeals are held in public courtrooms.

In different parts of the UK, there are different court processes for different charges in different courtrooms (for example, with a jury or not) and there are different possible verdicts and sentencing procedures, including rules on appeals and parole.

There is information about all these things on the Brake website.

This information can help you understand what might happen in your case. Go to

If you do not have access to the internet, or need help understanding court procedures, contact the National Road Victim Service.


Information and support for you through a court case

If the public are allowed to attend a court case, then you can choose to attend or not. The information below can help you decide if you want to go, and gives you advice if you decide to go.

Help in court

Many crash victims have never been to a court before and benefit from having help and support from their police contact, court staff and charities.

Help from your police contact and the court. Courts often employ a team called a Victim Care Unit, or similar name. If you are not put in touch with this team, ask your police contact. They, or your police contact, should keep you informed, for example about if an accused person is bailed, court dates, and appeals.

Help from charities. There are charities that offer free and confidential emotional support, information and advice for victims and witnesses attending court. This service is often called a ‘witness service’ but is usually available to you, as a victim, whether called as a witness or not. For a list of charities offering this support, go to

You can also bring friends and family to court with you. The court will try to find places for everyone to sit. However, maximum numbers will be restricted by seats available.


Frequently asked questions about court hearings

How will I know where to go?

If you have never been to the courthouse before, it may help to organise a visit on a different day, in advance of a court hearing, so you are familiar with where to go. It is good practice for victims to be offered an accompanied tour of a courthouse, and reasonable to request this, through your police contact, if you are not offered it.

Will I see the accused or their family/friends around the courthouse?

If the accused is on bail, they will be able to use the same public areas of the court, such as a café or toilets.

Many victims understandably want to avoid being in the same space as an accused person. For this reason, many courts now provide a quiet room for victims, where you can sit and wait for a court hearing. Ask if this is possible.

Will anyone accompany me during the court hearing, to offer support?

To arrange help during a court hearing, talk to your police contact, court staff or charity service.

Where will I sit in the courtroom?

In the courtroom, you and anyone supporting you, as well as friends of the accused and any journalists, can sit in the public gallery. (If you are a witness, you will not be able to sit in the gallery until you have given evidence.) However, it may be possible for you to be seated away from the accused’s friends in court. Ask your police contact or court staff if this is possible.

Will the lawyers prosecuting the case talk to me during the court hearing, so I can understand what is happening?

During a court hearing, the prosecuting lawyers will be busy prosecuting the case. However, court hearings can be complicated, and it is good practice that you are introduced to someone in the prosecuting team and informed about what is happening. Ask your police contact or court staff if you can be kept updated by a member of the legal team that is prosecuting the case.

In court, the accused person is referred to as the defendant. This is because they are defending the case against them.

Will I see or hear things that could be upsetting for me or others?

Evidence is presented in court for the benefit of the people judging the case and prosecuting or defending it. Sometimes you may not be able to see evidence being discussed (such as diagrams or videos). If you can see evidence, some of it may be upsetting. You may strongly disagree with one or more things said in court by a lawyer for the defendant, or by a witness.

If you think you may get upset and need to leave the courtroom, you can. You are allowed to leave and re-enter a courtroom quietly. While you are in court, you are required to sit quietly and not talk. People who disturb court proceedings can be asked to leave.

Can I take notes in court?

You are usually allowed to take notes, but sometimes legal reasons prevent this. You should check with court staff first. You are not allowed to take photos or make recordings. You should switch off any phone or devices.

How long will the case take to be heard?

It depends on your case. Some cases are heard quickly, and others take many days. Sometimes, the start time of a hearing is delayed, or a hearing is postponed to another day, which might not be the next day. Sometimes a court building has many courtrooms in it. Sometimes the courtroom in which your case will be heard changes.

Your police contact or court staff should be able to keep you up to date with what is happening.

Victims of crime have the right to be treated with respect, understand what is happening, be heard, and receive support.


Reading out a victim statement in court

If you gave a victim statement and a victim statement is being read out in court, this:

  • happens after someone pleads guilty or is found guilty of a crime
  • happens before sentencing.

In some cases, you may be asked questions about your victim statement in court. It is the court’s decision:

  • whether the full victim statement is read out, or just part of it
  • who reads it out
  • whether this happens in person, or whether it is a recording of someone reading it out.

It is often read out by the prosecuting agency or you (although in Northern Ireland you are not allowed to read your own statement).

If you are given the opportunity to read out your own victim statement, or record it in advance for it to be played in court:

  • you can decide to do this, or not if you don’t want to
  • someone else can do it for you, often the prosecuting agency.

If you are asked to be a witness in court

If you are a witness, you will already have given a statement. In some cases, this statement can be used as your evidence in court. In other cases, you may have to give evidence in court.

Being a witness in court is a new experience for most people. You should be assigned someone by the court to help you and give you information about what will happen. If you are unsure who is going to help you, or what will happen, talk to your police contact.


Special measures for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses

Witnesses who are vulnerable or feel intimidated may be able to give evidence with the assistance of special measures, such as:

  • screening (so you and the defendant cannot see each other)
  • live television links
  • hearings in private
  • use of an intermediary (someone who helps communicate to you questions you are being asked by the court, and communicates back your answers)
  • allowing a video-recorded statement to act as evidence at trial.

The court has to follow legal guidelines regarding who is eligible for special measures. If you want to find out if you can use any special measures, talk to your police contact.

An application has to be made to the court for use of special measures and the court decides whether they will allow you to use them or not. You may be able to practise using special measures during a court visit before the trial.


Restorative justice

Restorative justice provides an opportunity to meet or communicate with an offender to explain the impact of their crime on you. It also aims to help offenders take responsibility. Your involvement in restorative justice is entirely voluntary.

The offender must have admitted to the crime and also be willing to participate.

Restorative justice often involves a meeting with an offender, guided by a trained facilitator. Alternatively, it could involve letter correspondence, or audio or video recordings. You will have the opportunity to consider and discuss what will work best for you.

If restorative justice is offered, you can talk to the facilitator about whether to do it or not. If it is not offered, and you want to consider it, talk to your police contact or visit the Restorative Justice Council at to find out if it is available in your area.