Victim Information and Advice Information About High Court Procedure by bigbro22


									Victim Information and Advice
Information About High Court Procedure
The information in this leaflet is available in other languages and formats. Please contact
VIA for details.
How we can help you
Victim Information and Advice (VIA) has given you this leaflet because you are the victim of,
and/or witness to, a crime. Senior prosecution lawyers (Crown Counsel) have decided that this
case should take place in the High Court. In a High Court trial, a jury, made up of 15 members of
the public, decides the verdict and a Judge decides any sentence.
In High Court proceedings the accused is given an indictment (legal document) that sets out the
charges against him or her. It also lists witnesses, and items or documents (called productions)
that may be referred to during any trial.
This leaflet describes the stages of High Court procedure.
VIA can help guide you through this process.
About VIA
VIA is part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The Procurator Fiscal (the Fiscal) is
responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime in Scotland.
VIA staff are not prosecutors. Our job is to assist victims, witnesses and also, in certain cases of
sudden, unexpected or crime-related deaths, the next of kin.
Preliminary Hearing
(witnesses do not have to attend):
At this hearing the Judge will:
•   Deal with any outstanding legal matters;
•   Ask whether the accused is going to plead guilty or not guilty;
• Identify which witnesses will be required for a trial and what arrangements may need to be
made for them.
If the accused pleads guilty, the Judge may pass sentence there and then. The Judge may in
some cases decide to adjourn (continue) the case to a later date to get background information
on the accused and also to find out which sentencing options are available.
If the accused pleads not guilty, the Judge will try to fix a trial on a date that is suitable for most of
the witnesses. Before the Preliminary Hearing witnesses who may be asked to give evidence in
court will be contacted by the Fiscal to find out the dates when they will not be available to come
to court. The Fiscal will also need to know the reasons why witnesses cannot come to court.
At the Preliminary Hearing the Judge can fix 3 different types of Trial:
• Fixed Trial – this is a trial allocated to a particular High Court (such as Glasgow or Edinburgh)
to start on a specific date.
• Dedicated Floating Trial – this is a trial allocated to a particular High Court (such as Glasgow
or Edinburgh) that can start on one of a number of days within the same week.
• Floating Trial – this is a trial due to start within a specific period (usually 2 weeks) but which
has not been allocated to any particular High Court.
The Trial
(witnesses must attend)
If you are needed to give evidence, you will be sent a witness citation (letter), giving a date and
time when you must come to court. If for any reason you cannot come to court on the date and
time given on the citation you must contact the Fiscal or VIA immediately.
The Witness Service, based within the High Court, provide practical support for witnesses and
can arrange a visit to the court before the trial. If you would like VIA to contact the Witness
Service on your behalf please let us know.
You may have to wait some time at court before you are asked into the courtroom. Depending on
how the trial progresses, you may not be called to give evidence or you may be required to attend
on another day.
The prosecutor who prosecutes a criminal case in the High Court is called the Advocate Depute
At the trial, the jury will listen to all the evidence and decide whether the verdict is guilty, not
guilty or not proven. If the verdict is not guilty or not proven, the accused can leave court and
that is the end of the case.
Additional needs
If your first or preferred language is not English, you may need an interpreter to explain what is
being said in court or to help you give evidence. This may be necessary even if you know enough
English for everyday life.
You may also need to have any documents, such as letters from the Fiscal, given to you in your
preferred language.
Anyone who gives evidence in court must first promise to tell the truth. You can give this promise
in a way that fits with your religion, language or culture.
If you have a disability or impairment, you may need certain arrangements to be made for getting
into the court, or for giving evidence.
Please tell VIA if you have any concerns or specific needs. We can then make sure that the
Fiscal and the court are aware of these.
Sometimes the Judge sentences the offender immediately after the offender has pled guilty or is
found guilty.
The Judge may continue the case to a later date to obtain background information on the
accused and also to find out which sentencing options are available. If a Judge asks for a
background report, or other information, it does not always mean they are thinking of sending the
offender to prison. Sometimes the Judge is simply looking to find the best way of dealing with the
case. If the Judge is thinking of imposing a prison sentence a background report is always
required where the offender is under 21 or has not been to prison before.
Where an offender is in prison during the trial the Judge will also decide whether he or she should
be released on bail until the sentence is passed.
An offender can appeal against conviction and/or sentence. The appeal will be heard by a Judge
of the High Court who is not the Judge who tried the case. An offender may be released after
sentence until the appeal is heard if a Judge approves his or her release. This is called interim
Further Information
Please ask VIA if you would like any further information or if there is anything you are unsure
Local Support Agencies
You may also wish to contact:
Victim Support Scotland
Providing practical and emotional support to victims of crime. For local details:
During office hours
0845 60 39 213
Witness Service
Providing emotional and practical support to all victims and witnesses, and their family and
friends, when attending court.
For local Witness Service details please contact Victim Support Scotland.
Contact VIA
For further information please contact your local VIA office, at the telephone number on the
enclosed letter.
Alternatively please contact the National Office at the address below or by calling 01382 341185
and we will supply you with details of your local VIA office.
VIA National Office
Caledonian House
Dundee DD1 4QA
Victim Information and Advice
A part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

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