Victim-witness assistance

If you have to give evidence in court, you can usually expect to be in the same room as the defendant. Because this can be embarrassing or threatening for some people, some ways have been developed to make it easier to give evidence.

The Police Victim Contact Officer, the Witness Assistance Service (attached to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) and the (non-government) Victim Support Service can help you. If you are over 16 years of age, and a recent victim of rape or sexual assault, Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service can provide extensive information, counselling and support. You will find the phone numbers for these agencies listed in the section 'Where can I get help?' . If you are under 16, and have been raped or sexually abused, you should contact Families SA , the police or the Child Abuse Report Line (phone 13 14 78). Victims of domestic, or family, violence will also find support services listed under 'Where can I get help?' .

Either the Witness Assistance Service (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions), or the Victim Support Service (Court Companion Service), can take you to the court. They can show you a courtroom, and talk to you and your family about who will be where in the courtroom when the court sits, and what will happen. They can tell you about your rights, or help you get the services you need. They can help you prepare a Victim impact statement.

The Witness Assistance Officer can also provide information specially prepared for child witnesses. They will be offered information and support by a Child Witness Assistance Officer.

Both the Witness Assistance Service (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) and the Victim Support Service can refer you to appropriate agencies for ongoing counselling. Yarrow Place can offer short-term and ongoing counselling, and provides free seminars on the justice system, including information on giving evidence.

If you need assistance or you have concerns when you attend the court, you can speak to the Sheriff’s Officer in the court. Sheriff’s Officers are trained to assist persons attending the courts, and can help with the special needs of victims and other witnesses.

Some courts have a special waiting room for witnesses who may feel vulnerable when waiting to go into the courtroom. The Sheriff’s Officer can assist you to access the room, or, if it is not available, find you a safe place to wait.

The court may allow some witnesses to give their evidence by closed circuit television or videoconferencing from outside the courtroom in some circumstances. You can read more about the special provisions that might be made for vulnerable witnesses under Legal Process - Vulnerable victims and witnessess - on this site.

Court Companions

If you want you can have someone come to court and be with you (as a court companion) when you give evidence. You can arrange this through the Witness Assistance Service (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) or the (non-government) Victim Support Service. You can also arrange for a friend to do this by talking to the prosecutor or the Sheriff's Officer (A person who is going to give evidence in the case cannot normally be a court companion).

Volunteer court companions are trained by the Victim Support Service to offer information and support to crime victims, their families and friends and to prosecution witnesses. Contact the Victim Support Service if you require a volunteer court companion.

If you do not have a companion, you may ask for the Sheriff's Officer to sit near you when you are giving evidence. Tell the Sheriff's Officer before court starts if this is what you want.

Witness Assistance Service, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

If the matter is being dealt with by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), a Witness Assistance Officer may be allocated to you. Allocations are made on a priority basis to those most in need and include child victims, victims with intellectual disability, victims of sexual offences, victims of domestic violence, victims of serious violence, harm or assault, and families in matters involving a fatality or death. Witness Assistance Officers provide a range of practical, emotional and information supports. This can include informing you about the role of the DPP, advising you about your rights and responsibilities as a witness and/or victim of crime, attending meetings with DPP legal staff, explaining the criminal legal process and keeping you informed about the progress of your matter, assessing your special needs and requirements, familiarising you with the court room environment, preparing you to attend a trail, acting as a court companion to you during a trial, assisting you to prepare a Victim impact statement, and linking you to other supports and services. Investigating Officers (SAPOL), Victim Contact Officers (SAPOL) and Prosecution staff (DPP) can advise you if you are eligible to recieve support from the Witness Assistance Service.