If the defendant agrees with what you say happened it is called pleading guilty. It means they admit that they broke the law. If this happens, your statement (the information you gave to the police about what happened) will be read out in court. You will not have to go to court.
However, the defendant might plead not guilty. This means they do not agree with what you say happened. They do not admit that they broke the law.
If this happens, the court may need to hear from you about what happened. They might want to ask you some questions to help them decide if the defendant is guilty. This is normal and not something to worry about.
The Police or PPS will contact you to see if there are any dates you aren’t free to go to court. You should tell them if you have any holidays booked. You should tell them if you have any important appointments to go to like a hospital appointment.
They will tell you what date the trial will be and what court you need to go to. They will tell you how to get there.
It is important that you go to the court as it is hard to change the court date.
There are different courts in Northern Ireland.
All criminal cases begin in a Magistrates’ Court.
In a magistrates’ court a judge listens to the evidence and decides if the defendant is guilty. They decide on the punishment.
Some cases get sent to the Crown Court. This is usually if a case is more serious.
In a Crown Court a jury decides if the defendant is guilty.
A jury is a group of different from people from the community. There can be up to 12 people in a jury. The judge will decide on the punishment.
Some witnesses can have special measures put in place for them. The judge will decide if this should happen. Special measures are things that are done to help people give the best evidence possible.
Screens can be put around you so you cannot see the defendant.
This means you can give your evidence in a different room or building. It will be played to the court by video
The judge and court staff can be asked to take off their wigs and gowns if it would make you more comfortable
This means people who do not need to hear your evidence can be asked to leave.
You can have your interview filmed before the trial and played to the court.
You can use communication tools during the trial that will help you give your best evidence. Sometimes an expert person can help with this.-
You can visit the court before the trial. Someone from Victim Support will show you around and explain what will happen when you go to court.
Registered Intermediary Support
If you need support with communication, a registered intermediary can write a report for the judge.
The report will have important information about how best to ask you the questions so that you can understand. They will also tell the judge when you need a break.