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Information for witnesses

As a witness, you play a vital role in helping us solve crimes and deliver justice. The criminal justice system cannot work without witnesses and are the most important part in bringing offenders to justice.

Witnesses can be;

  • victims of crime
  • someone who saw a crime or incident
  • someone who knows something about a crime or incident
  • someone with specialist knowledge
  • someone who knows someone involved in a case, known as a character witness.

Coming forward as a witness

All crimes have a negative effect on our neighbours, family or friends, so reporting what you know will help your community.

If you have witnessed a crime it is important for you to report it to us, because the information you provide could ensure a criminal is brought to justice. This could prevent more crimes being committed and protect others from becoming victims.

You may be nervous about coming forward, but please be assured that we are committed to supporting you as a witness of crime. We will support you and help you deal with what you have witnessed. Visit our witness support page

We will also support you to feel confident about making a statement, giving evidence in court and information about the criminal justice system.

Making a statement as a witness

After coming forward to report a crime you have witnessed, you may be asked to make a statement. A statement is a record of information you tell us about what happened. An officer will write down the statement for you and ask you to read and sign it, as it may be used as evidence in court. We will also put you into touch with the Victim and Witness Hub.

As a witness, you may contact officers at any time if you have any questions or concerns. We intend to keep you updated with information about the case, although this is not always possible. You may not be contacted again if;

  • the suspect admits the offence and is cautioned
  • there is not enough evidence to prosecute the suspect
  • no suspect is identified.

Legally, you do not have to make a statement but it will help us investigate the crime and may make the difference in whether the offender can be brought to justice or not.

View more information on GOV.UK about giving a statement as a witness (opens in a new window).

Crime investigation

As part of the criminal investigation, your statement will be read by officials involved with the case, who might include;

Please be assured that your address and contact details will not be shared with anyone throughout the process of a criminal investigation.

Where an investigation results in a case being taken to court, our Victim and Witness Hub will update you on its progress.

Attending court as a witness

You will only have to go to court if the case goes to trial and the defendant either;

  • denies the charge and pleads “not guilty”, or;
  • pleads guilty but denies an important part of the offence which might affect the type of sentence they receive.

Staff from the Victim and Witness Hub will advise if you need to attend court and will provide you with the necessary support for you to feel confident about attending court.

It is important for you to advise us as soon as possible of any dates you aren't available, this is just in case you can't go to court because of any important, unavoidable, appointments. If you are required to attend court as a witness and do not go, this could mean;

  • the case may be thrown out of court
  • the court could adjourn the proceedings and issue a witness summons to be served on you to attend. If you do not attend the next scheduled court hearing that you have been summons to, you could be arrested for contempt of court (opens in a new window).

Witness intimidation

It is a criminal offence to intimidate a witness or anyone else involved in helping the police in an investigation.

We take witness intimidation very seriously. If you are harassed or threatened in any way before, during or after a court trial, you should contact us immediately.

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