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BEFORE THE TRIAL
Waiting for the trial will be a long and arduous trial in itself. Whilst you may understand that there is a process to follow its is incredibly frustrating. It can take years before the case will get to court. During that time you are expected to ‘get on with your lives’ which is easier said than done.
Before the proceedings actually take place, you can request to take your child to visit the court where the trial will be conducted. This will familiarise him/her with the building and help your child to feel a little more at ease. If this visit has not yet been sorted out for you then speak to the police, victim support person or social worker who, are dealing with the case to sort it out for you.
Generally, during the visit you will meet the witness support workers who will be looking after you during the trial. They are usually volunteers who work for an independent charity, Victim Support being one. They will help any witnesses; young and old feel more comfortable during the proceedings. The children can see the courtroom and the witness room, find out where the toilets are and where the video link room is and what it looks like. It is an idea to write a list of things that you need to ask the Witness Support workers before you go. They should be able to ease your minds and answer most of your questions or at least find out for you. If you haven’t received some booklets for you and your children to read from the Criminal Prosecution Service, talking about being a witness, then ask them to sort some out for you or point you in the right direction where you can get them, they are very good to read before the trial. Have a look at these sites which we have found to be very helpful.
If you are nervous about meeting or ‘bumping’ into the defendant then speak to the Witness Support workers so they can sort something out for you if they need to. Most courts will not allow this to happen but in some cases this is unavoidable.
A few days before the trial the children will be asked to go into the police station and review the video evidence that they had previously provided after they first made the allegations. If you are to appear as a witness as an adult, then you will have the opportunity to read your statements on the day that you are giving evidence.
It is common for children to feel worried and or nervous before and during court. Do not be surprised if their behaviour changes. It may be that they seem to go backwards to when they first disclosed the allegations. They may become more afraid or angry during this time. They could even feel guilty about telling people about the crime or have mixed feelings about the defendant especially if the defendant was a relative or family friend. There are a number of other character changes that I could list. This is normal, and if you keep showing your child love and acceptance it makes it easier for them to get through this whole process.