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 in court.
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 your address
- to either take oath on a holy book of your choice, or to ‘affirm’, which means you do not have to use a holy book.
If the trial is adjourned, the court have to clear the times with the witness and make sure of 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, the laws set 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.