Rights in Court

No matter where you stand in a court – as a witness, as a defendant or as a victim – all are entitled to their own rights.

Witnesses

There is a code of practice set up to protect the rights of a witness in a trial. A witness should have these rights in court:

  • to be in a separate waiting area to the defence and prosecution
  • to have any questions about the court procedure answered by an advocate, and to be informed of what to expect
  • to be given the opportunity to read the statement and refresh their memory before entering the courtroom
  • to claim expenses for financial loss due to time spent in court (this could be travel expenses, time off work, childcare required)
  • to not disclose their address
  • to either take oath on a holy book of their choice, or to ‘affirm’, which means a holy book does not have to be used

If the trial is adjourned, the court has to clear the times with the witness and make sure of their availability.

The Defendant’s Rights

As with everyone else attending a trial, defendants have their own rights too. The original European Convention on Human Rights was adopted by Britain in 1998. For a defendant, this sets out the basic, fundamental rights in court. These rights are:

  • the right to be informed of the case against you in a language you understand
  • the right to have an interpreter free of charge
  • the right to enough time and facilities to prepare your defence
  • the right to defend yourself
  • the right to a fair trial
  • the right to free legal representation in the interests of justice
  • the right to ensure that prosecution witnesses attend and can be cross-examined
  • the right to be innocent until proven guilty

Rights of a Victim in Court

A victim of crime has the same rights in court as a witness. This is because they are usually just providing a statement. If a victim is injured due to a crime then they have the right to try and claim compensation. Victims of crime do have a right to privacy as well.

A victim of crime is not actually party to criminal proceedings; therefore they have no legal status and no right in court to legal representation. However, as they are witnesses, the victims retain all the rights of a witness in court and will still receive all support from the witness service.