For some people, the idea of going to court and being close to the accused person can be worrying or frightening. But it is important to remember that you do not have to do it alone.
The law in Victoria says that you should be protected during the court process, and there are a number of services and arrangements that can help protect you and make you feel safe.
For example, some courts have a special waiting room for witnesses who may feel afraid or vulnerable when waiting to go into the courtroom.
If you get a summons or subpoena, you must go to court to be a witness.
If you are worried about your safety, let police or your victim support service know.
For advice about staying safe at court, you can talk to the Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817.
Do I have to go to court?
If you have been sent a summons or subpoena, you must go to the court case to give evidence.
If you are worried about your safety, it is a good idea to talk about it. You can speak to the:
- police officer in charge of your case
- Office of Public Prosecutions , if they are handling your case. They have a service to help victims and witnesses in court called the Victims and Witness Assistance Service
- Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817, who can help to connect you to other services.
You can also find out more about:
For victims of some types of crimes, giving evidence can be particularly difficult, and the justice system understands this. For this reason, special arrangements are made to protect these victims and make going to court a little easier.
If you are a victim of a sexual offence you may:
- give your evidence from somewhere other than the courtroom via remote video facilities
- give your evidence in court with a screen present – so that you do not have to see the accused person
- have a support person beside you while you give evidence. This person must be approved by the court.
If you are a victim of family violence or sexual assault the accused person is not allowed to directly cross-examine (question) you, although their lawyer may do so if the case goes to court.
Child Witness Service
Children who are witnesses in court cases are looked after by the Child Witness Service, who can:
- prepare children and young people for the role of being a witness and support them when they give evidence
- liaise with police and prosecution teams and provide case updates
- support child witnesses and their families throughout the criminal proceedings
- provide referrals for child witnesses to community agencies following the end of the court case if they need ongoing support.
Call the Child Witness Service on 1300 7980 540.
Victims and Witness Assistance Service
The Victims and Witness Assistance Service is available to all victims of crime and witnesses involved in cases handled by the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP). Specialised social workers can assist victims:
- before, during and after the court process
- with court arrangements
- by providing up-to-date information on the progress of the case
- in relation to committal hearings in the Magistrates' Court (which are handled by the OPP), County and Supreme Courts, and in the Court of Appeal
- in arranging meetings with the legal team (including the solicitor and prosecutor handling the case) before and after the court hearings.