Purpose of the role
? To meet Vulnerable and Intimidated witnesses (VIW) away from the court environment, either at their home or other agreed safe place, to assess their needs and provide support.
? Together with the VIW, and where appropriate their carer/ support worker/ parent/ guardian, develop a tailored plan of preparation and support.
? Using this plan, offer sensitive and supportive preparation to VIWs prior to them giving evidence as witnesses in criminal trials. The purpose of this preparation and support is to help reduce their anxiety and trauma and enable them to give their best evidence.
Main duties and responsibilities include
? To make an initial visit and carefully assess the needs of VIWs in relation to attending court.
? Make further visits, according their needs, to help prepare the witnesses about:
? what to expect from the court processes
? who’s who in the court
? arrangements for their arrival at court and where they will wait before giving their evidence
? what happens when they give their evidence and what will happen afterwards.
? Help the VIW manage their expectation about the process of the trial, the verdict and the sentence.
? Invite the VIW to have a pre-trial visit and explain how this may help in a number of ways by:
? taking away some of the fear of the unknown
? ensuring they know where they will give their evidence from
? providing an opportunity to sit in the live link room and see how the equipment works
? rehearsing the journey to court - where they will get off the bus or park their car etc.
? Liaise with the court based staff to arrange the pre-trial visit.
? Provide support on day of trial, together with Witness Service volunteer colleagues who will keep the VIW updated about the progress of the trial through liaison with the relevant authorities (prosecution/ defence council).
? If screens have been agreed, volunteers can accompany the witness into the courtroom and sit with them should this have been agreed by the Judge or Magistrate.
? After the VIW has given evidence and is released by the court, encourage them to return to the Witness Service waiting room giving them the chance to debrief if need be.
? In homicide cases check with the VIW if they are continuing to be supported by the homicide case worker – if yes, check whether they would like you to contact their caseworker. If no, ask if there is any other organization they would like to be put in contact with and pass this information to court based staff or onward referral.
? Ask if they plan to come back to court for the sentencing hearing - if yes, ask if they would like Witness Service support. Best practice would be for you as their dedicated VIW volunteer to accompany them should this be feasible.
? Ask if they would like the Witness Service to contact them in one/two weeks to see how they are.
? The commitment of a Witness Service outreach volunteer is varied depending on the requirements of the witness being supported.
? The role requires a great deal of flexibility, volunteers should do their best to commit to:
? out of court visits (at a time and place that suits the VIW, which might be in the evening or on a saturday morning)
? attending court on the days of trial where the witness is giving evidence
? possible follow up support visits and attending the court again for sentencing if required.
Personal skills and qualities that a Witness Service outreach volunteer needs
? EITHER: An existing Citizens Advice Witness Service volunteer with experience of providing support within the courts who has been specifically selected for the role and who has undergone the outreach training
? OR, be a specifically recruited volunteer outreach worker who has, or is willing to, undergone Core Learning, Serious Crime Awareness Training and Outreach
? Be able to:
? have an empathetic and confident approach to supporting vulnerable people;
? be flexible;
? have approachability and interpersonal skills;
? the ability to communicate well, which includes with parents, guardians and other supporters e.g. Intermediaries.
? Have an understanding of all Witness Service operating procedures including lone working and safeguarding issues, and be willing to work within these policies
? You will need to have Enhanced level DBS clearance to perform the role. If you do not currently have this, Citizen’s Advice will help you get this.
? Attend all relevant training and refresher courses that the role requires
? Attend volunteer meetings and support sessions with court staff
Desirable skills and qualities
? Have experience of at least one of the following:
? working with/supporting children and young people
? working with/supporting people with learning disabilities
? working with/supporting people with mental health issues
Opportunities and benefits
? Opportunity to deliver an enhanced service and make a real difference to the witness experience, by providing tailored support to the witness based on their needs
? Training, accreditation and continuing development and support in the role.
? Payment of agreed expenses
? An opportunity to join a dynamic team
? Development of interpersonal skills
? An opportunity to join a leading national advice agency
? Having a positive impact on the lives of witnesses and their supporters