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Witness Charter Witness Service Guidance

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Witness Charter Witness Service Guidance Powered By Docstoc
					Implementing and complying
with the Witness Charter



Operational Guidance for the Witness
Service Managers


April 2008




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Contents page
Why is the Witness Charter so important? ................................................................... 3
Standard by standard (Witness Service) ...................................................................... 4
       Standard 1: Ensuring fair treatment .......................................................................... 4
       Standard 15: Information about the court process .................................................... 5
       Standard 16: Information about the court and its location ........................................ 6
       Standard 17: Visiting the court before trial................................................................ 7
       Standard 19: Support at court .................................................................................. 8
       Standard 20: Court facilities and signage ............................................................... 10
       Standard 24: Waiting times at court and being updated on progress ..................... 11
       Standard 32: Post-trial support ............................................................................... 13
       Standard 33: Claiming expenses ............................................................................ 14
       Standard 34: Complaints ........................................................................................ 16
Useful contacts ............................................................................................................. 17
Annex: The Witness Charter (Public Version) ............................................................ 18




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Why is the Witness Charter so important?
1. The Witness Charter has been developed to tell witnesses how they can expect to be
   treated by the police if they are a witness to a crime or incident. It also covers
   subsequent standards of care for other criminal justice agencies and lawyers if
   witnesses are asked to give evidence for the prosecution or defence in a criminal court.
   The charter sets out what help and support each witness can expect to receive at every
   stage of the process from all the agencies and lawyers involved, although the Witness
   Charter does not cover the role of judges and magistrates.

2. All witnesses need to know what services they should expect from the criminal justice
   agencies, and the agencies themselves need to be clear about what standards they
   are required to meet in delivering those services. If this does not happen then it is likely
   that witnesses will not receive the level of care they need, and will therefore feel
   disillusioned and dissatisfied with the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

3. The standards of service set out in the Witness Charter apply to all witnesses,
   regardless of whether they are also be the victim of the crime. If the witness is also the
   victim, they have rights which are set out in the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. It
   is important to remember that unlike the code, the Witness Charter is not statutory,
   therefore not set out in law. The introduction to the Witness Charter states that there
   may be constraints which affect the ability of the various agencies to provide services.
   It also explains that agencies and lawyers will seek to comply with the standards,
   insofar as is practicable and their professional rules allow.

This guidance
4. This guidance has been prepared for the Witness Service to give assistance in
   implementing their commitments under the Witness Charter. It includes detailed
   descriptions of what each of the standards applying to the Witness Service (10 in total)
   means in practice.

5. The guidance also includes details of what the Witness Service should do to ensure
   that each of these standards is complied with.

6. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) will be continually reviewing the
   Witness Charter following its implementation and this will include a review of this
   guidance and other support materials. If you have any comments or suggestions you
   can feed these back to us at witness.standards@cjs.gsi.gov.uk.




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Standard by standard (Witness Service)
Standard 1: Ensuring fair treatment

As a witness you will be treated fairly and with respect according to your
needs irrespective of race, religion, background, gender, age, sexuality or any
disability.

Links to existing requirements               Other relevant agencies

 Disability Discrimination Amendment  All CJS agencies share this standard
  Act 2005
 Equality Act 2006
 Race Relations Amendment Act 2000
 Victim Support National Standards


Guidance

7. The standard sets out that all witnesses will be treated fairly and with respect according
   to their needs irrespective of race, religion, background, gender, age, sexuality or any
   disability.

8. This is a requirement for all CJS agencies and legal practitioners who have any contact
   with prosecution or defence witnesses, including Witness Care Units. The CJS must be
   accessible to everyone regardless of background or personal circumstances. Such
   issues should not be left to chance but instead be positively managed, in accordance
   with legislation. Areas should consider whether the CJS locally can meet individual
   needs from point of access to the CJS right through to conclusion of the case.

9. The public should receive the same high quality of service whenever they are in
   contact with Witness Service, regardless of where, how or for what reason that contact
   takes place.

10. The Witness Service is encouraged to take positive action to show fairness for all
    service users and to ensure that processes are in place to record this. A starting point
    could be to undertake a review of equality and diversity training within your area. There
    should also be encouragement from Witness Service managers to promote equality
    issues.

Monitoring

11. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 15: Information about the court process

The police, Witness Care Unit or defence lawyer will give you information to
help you prepare for attending court. The Witness Care Unit or defence
lawyer may give you a DVD explaining the court process or you can collect a
copy from the Witness Service based at court. It can also be downloaded
from www.direct.gov.uk/goingtocourtvideo.

If you wish, the police, Witness Care Unit or defence lawyer can give you
contact details for the Witness Service. If the witness is a child, the police,
Witness Service or other supporter will give them the Young Witness Pack
and will seek to explain the content to them.

You can also obtain information on the internet, including an explanation of
the process, from www.cjsonline.gov.uk or www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.

Links to existing requirements              Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards          defence practitioners
                                             police
                                             Witness Care Units


Guidance

12. The Witness Service will be supplied with copies of the DVD from HMCS, although the
    majority of witnesses will have received the DVD from the Witness Care Unit. A poster
    could be put in the witness waiting room telling the witness to ask the Witness Service
    for a copy if they have not seen one.

13. If the witness has time before giving evidence, the Witness Service could arrange for
    the DVD to be shown in the witness waiting room, providing this does not
    inconvenience other witnesses. If a witness comes in for a pre-trial visit, the DVD
    should be brought to their attention and a copy given to them if they have not been
    given one already.

14. The Witness Service should use the Young Witness Pack in accordance with existing
    Victim Support guidance which is in the Service Framework for supporting vulnerable
    and or intimidated witnesses (2004).

Monitoring

15. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 16: Information about the court and its location

If you have to go to court, the Witness Care Unit or defence lawyer will inform
you of, or help you find out:

 the court opening hours;
 the location of the court, including a map showing where the court is with
  information about public transport and car parking;
 the facilities available at court, including food and drink, toilets, telephones,
  separate waiting areas and arrangements for people with disabilities:
 the support available at the court;
 arrangements for claiming expenses; and
 a helpline telephone number for further information.

This information will be available from court staff, the Witness Service or
other witness supporters. It will also be available in information leaflets for
prosecution and defence witnesses which may be given to you by the
Witness Care Unit or defence lawyer. These leaflets can also be downloaded
from www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.

Links to existing requirements               Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards           defence practitioners
                                              HMCS
                                              Witness Care Units



Guidance

16. It is routine practice for the Witness Service to give this information to witnesses.
    Witness Services could discuss this standard with Witness Care Units, the court and
    defence lawyers to ensure that processes are in place to make sure all witnesses
    receive the information they need. With Witness Care Units, this can be done in the
    context of the model protocol between Witness Care Units and Victim Support’s
    Witness Service (2006).

Monitoring

17. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 17: Visiting the court before trial

As a prosecution or defence witness, you will be offered the opportunity to
visit the court before the trial. These pre-trial visits will be arranged by the
Witness Care Unit, defence lawyer or the Witness Service or other witness
supporter in conjunction with the court staff. During your visit you should,
where feasible, be given the opportunity to practice using the live TV link
facility if the use of this measure has been granted.

Links to existing requirements                  Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support                                 defence practitioners
                                                 HMCS
                                                 Witness Care Unit


Guidance

18. Provision of a pre-trial visit for witnesses is part of the core service of the Witness
    Service. To ensure that witnesses are referred early enough for this to take place, the
    Witness Service needs to discuss procedures with the Witness Care Unit and defence
    lawyers so that they communicate information to the Witness Service. If arrangements
    for the witness to practice use of the live TV link facility are not being made, the
    Witness Service should take this up with the LCJB. The model protocol between
    Witness Care Units and Victim Support’s Witness Service (2006) and guidance notes
    on court cases involving TV links (2003) are useful reference documents.


 Case study
At one court, the Witness Service contacts every witness by telephone once the referral
information is received from the Witness Care Unit and provided telephone is the preferred
means of contact for the witness. The witness is offered a pre-trial visit at the court before
they have to attend for trial. This visit usually takes place at 9.15am in one of the
courtrooms and the Witness Service shows the witness what will happen on the day of trial
and how screens and the live TV link will work if special measures have been agreed. If
the witness expresses a wish to use special measures but the court hasn’t made a ruling
about it, the Witness Service will pass the information about the wishes of the witness on
to the Witness Care Unit.


Monitoring

19. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.

20. The use of performance data on how many pre-trial visits conducted.



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   Standard 19: Support at court

As a prosecution or defence witness attending court, you can receive help
and support from the Witness Service, which has staff and volunteers in
every Crown Court and magistrates’ court in England and Wales.

The Witness Service aims to:

 provide an independent, impartial and confidential service and treat you
  with respect and understanding;
 provide information on court procedure and lay-out;
 provide any practical assistance you require, for example help with
  expenses forms;
 answer any questions you have or refer you to someone who can; and
 support you in coping with any anxieties you might have about appearing
  in court.

The Witness Service, where permitted by the court, can also accompany you
into the courtroom or the live TV link room.

The Witness Service is a free and impartial service and will not offer an
opinion on the case, discuss the case or the evidence before the trial or
provide legal advice.

The prosecution or defence may also arrange other support for you, with the
permission of the court. This may include specific help with arrangements for
your appearance in the witness box or in the live TV link room.


Links to existing requirements                 Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards


Guidance

21. In line with the Victim Support national standards, the Witness Service should seek to:

 provide an independent, impartial and confidential service and treat witnesses with
  respect and understanding;
 provide information on court procedure and lay-out;
 provide any practical assistance required e.g. help with expenses forms;
 answer any questions the witness has or refer them to someone who can;
 support the witness in coping with any anxieties they might have about appearing in
  court; and



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 accompany them into the courtroom or, where permitted by the court, the live TV link
  room.

22. This standard reflects the core service of the Witness Service. The guidance notes on
    court cases involving TV links (2003) is a useful resource for Witness Service staff and
    volunteers.

Monitoring

23. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.

24. The use of performance data on how many how many prosecution and defence
    witnesses were supported.




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Standard 20: Court facilities and signage

When you come to court, you should find:

 polite and helpful court and Witness Service staff wearing identification
  badges;
 clear signs to help you find your way around the building; and
 a clearly signposted Witness Service or other witness supporter reception
  point.

All court buildings will:

 publicly display a list of cases to be heard that day;
 have functional, accessible and clean toilet facilities; and
 have clean and comfortable waiting areas.

In addition, courts will either have refreshment areas or court staff will tell you
what arrangements can be made to obtain refreshments.

Links to existing requirements                  Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards              HMCS


Guidance

25. Court staff are required to ensure that court facilities match those set out in the
    standard. Although not specified in the standard, court staff should also consider
    providing separate toilet facilities for defence and prosecution witnesses in line with
    other measures to ensure the safety of court users. The Witness Service is responsible
    for ensuring that Witness Service staff and volunteers are identifiable at court.


 Case study
In one Crown Court, the Witness Service desk is clearly visible from the entrance and is
manned by two volunteers from 9.15am until 11.00am. After that time, any witness arriving
at court is directed to the court reception where a call is made to the Witness Service office
for a volunteer to come and collect the witness and take them to the waiting area.


Monitoring

26. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.



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Standard 24: Waiting times at court and being updated on progress

Everyone involved in your case will seek to ensure that, from the time you are
asked to attend court and give evidence, you do not have to wait more than
two hours in the Crown Court or more than one hour in a magistrates’ court.
However, there are sometimes delays which will be unavoidable.

If the witness giving evidence is a child, every effort will be taken to reduce
the chances of them being kept waiting to give evidence.

The prosecution or defence lawyer, court staff, Witness Service or other
witness supporter will seek to:

 tell you as quickly as possible if your case cannot be heard on the day;
 give you an indication of how long you will have to wait before giving
  evidence and update you regularly; and
 inform you if you are likely to have to wait longer than expected and the
  reason for any delay.

Links to existing requirements                 Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards             defence practitioners
                                                HMCS
                                                Crown Prosecution Service


Guidance

27. Witnesses will always have to wait to give evidence but they should know how long
    their wait is likely to be and be kept informed of progress and of any delays. The Code
    of Practice for Victims of Crime states that those witnesses who are victims should not
    wait more than two hours. The current Crown Court target is two hours for all witnesses
    and the target in magistrates’ courts is that more than half of witnesses wait less than
    one hour before giving evidence. The Witness Charter reflects these existing targets
    and makes it a shared responsibility of the relevant lawyers, court staff, Witness
    Service or other witness supporter to inform witnesses of any delay and the reason for
    it.

28. The Witness Service should always be aware of the waiting time that the witness is
    experiencing and as part of the service, the Witness Service will ensure that the
    witness is kept informed by regularly checking with the court and the prosecutor or
    defence.




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 Case study
In one case at the Crown Court, a witness arrived at court for a 10.30am start but was not
needed that morning. At around 12.00pm, the court passed information to the officer in the
case that the witness could be released until 2.00pm and the officer told the Witness
Service who spoke to the witness, releasing the witness until the afternoon. The Witness
Service had given the witness regular updates about the timing of the case prior to
midday.


Monitoring

29. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 32: Post-trial support

The Witness Service or other supporter will seek to give you the chance to
talk over the case when it has ended and provide you with more help or
information, including advice if you think you are at risk of intimidation after
appearing as a witness.

If you need further help after the trial, the Witness Care Unit, Witness Service
or other witness supporter will refer you to relevant support agencies where
they are available.

Links to existing requirements                Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards            Witness Care Units


Guidance

30. The Witness Service can refer any witness to Victim Support for further support and
    Victim Support has information about a whole range of support that is available beyond
    their own remit.


 Case study
In one case, the witnesses were the parents of the defendant whose behaviour was quite
threatening towards them. Although the trial did not go ahead on the day, the parents
came to court and were clearly suffering from the actions of their son and were in need of
some longer term community support. The Witness Service referred the parents to the
local Victim Support scheme for ongoing support.


Monitoring

31. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 33: Claiming expenses

In most cases you will be able to claim expenses for costs incurred while
travelling to and from court. You may also be able to claim expenses for any
loss of earnings while attending court to give evidence.

The Witness Service or prosecution lawyer will seek to inform you of the
procedures for claiming your expenses and what allowances you can claim,
and you can ask for help to complete the claim form.

However, if you are a defence witness giving evidence as a character
witness, you will not be able to claim expenses unless the court makes a
specific order.

If you are a prosecution witness and you require an advance payment to
attend court or return home, in exceptional circumstances the prosecuting
lawyer will seek to make emergency arrangements.

Links to existing requirements                Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards            Witness Care Units


Guidance

32. Prosecution witnesses, with some exceptions, are able to claim expenses incurred
    travelling to and from the court, which are paid by the CPS or other prosecuting
    agencies. The Witness Service is responsible for advising on the procedure for this and
    for helping witnesses to make a claim. Defence witnesses, with some exceptions
    (character witnesses cannot claim unless the Court makes a specific order), are able to
    claim travel expenses paid by court staff out of central departmental funds. These
    witnesses should be assisted by the defence lawyer to make a claim if asked.
    Witnesses may also be able to claim expenses for loss of earnings while attending
    court to give evidence. Prosecution lawyers can arrange for emergency payments to
    enable a prosecution witness to attend court or to return home, in exceptional
    circumstances.


 Case study
In one court, the CPS provides the Witness Service with a partially completed expense
claim form for each witness and when the witness arrives at court, the Witness Service
gives the claim form to the witness.


Monitoring



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33. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Standard 34: Complaints

If you are unhappy with the level of service that you have received from any
of the criminal justice agencies you can make a complaint in the first instance
through the complaints procedure of that service. However, this does not
extend to any complaint about the judicial outcome, verdict or sentence.

Agencies and lawyers will always:

   make it clear how to make a complaint;
   treat your complaint seriously;
   try to deal with your complaint as soon as possible;
   tell you how to take a complaint forward if you are not satisfied with the
    initial outcome of the complaints procedure.

Links to existing requirements                 Other relevant agencies

 Victim Support National Standards              Crown Prosecution Service
                                                 defence practitioners
                                                 HMCS
                                                 police
                                                 Witness Care Units


Guidance

34. The standard explains that witnesses can make a complaint through the complaints
    procedure of a particular agency if they are unhappy with the level of service that they
    have received from it but that this does not extend to any complaint about the judicial
    outcome, verdict or sentence.

35. Good practice includes:

 providing information on complaints procedures;
 providing complaint forms to witnesses as required; and
 monitoring the level and nature of complaints.

Monitoring

36. Compliance can be monitored through Victim Support’s line management structure and
    good supervision of volunteers.




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Useful contacts
Office for Criminal Justice Reform

The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) is the cross-departmental team that
supports all criminal justice agencies in working together to provide an improved service to
the public.

For more on the work of OCJR visit:
http://www.cjsonline.gov.uk/the_cjs/departments_of_the_cjs/ocjr/index.html

There is a new online resource for criminal justice practitioners. This site contains
information and guidance for people working in the CJS. During 2008, it will be developed
to provide a single source for guidance, best practice and news affecting criminal justice
practitioners.

http://frontline.cjsonline.gov.uk/




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Annex: The Witness Charter (Public Version)
About the Witness Charter
The Witness Charter tells you how you can expect to be treated by:

 the police if you are a witness to a crime or incident; and

 by other criminal justice agencies and lawyers if you are asked to give evidence for the
  prosecution or defence in a criminal court.

The Witness Charter also sets out what help and support you can expect to receive at
every stage of the process from all the agencies and lawyers involved. The standards of
service set out in the Witness Charter apply to all witnesses, regardless of whether you are
also the victim. If you are also a victim of a crime, you have rights that are set out in full in
the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime.

Unlike the code, the Witness Charter is not set out in law and there may be constraints
which affect the ability of the various agencies to provide the service. For example,
although the care of witnesses is important to them, the principal duty of defence lawyers
is to represent and attend to the needs of their client. Agencies and lawyers will comply
with the standards where possible and as far as their professional rules allow.

This leaflet sets out our promise to you under the Witness Charter in brief. A full version of
the Witness Charter can be downloaded from www.cjsonline.gov.uk.

Being a witness
As a witness in an investigation, you are helping to ensure that justice is done.

If a suspected offender is identified, and the case proceeds to a criminal court, you may be
asked to give evidence for the prosecution or defence in court if you know:

 something about a particular crime, incident or dispute; or

 one of the people involved in a case (you may be asked to be a character witness).

In either event, your evidence can be crucial to securing the conviction of the guilty or the
acquittal of the innocent.




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Our standards of care
Fair treatment

1.   As a witness you will be treated fairly and with respect, according to your needs,
     irrespective of race, religion, background, gender, age, sexuality or any disability.

Reporting crime

2.   We will make it easy for you to report a crime or other incident and, when you do,
     your report will be handled efficiently.

Making a statement

3.   We will identify whether you are a vulnerable or intimidated witness and ask whether
     you would like special support.

4.   When you make a statement, we will make a basic assessment of your needs as a
     witness and will seek your views on measures that might help you.

5.   If you are asked to make a statement, we will arrange to take it as soon as possible
     and at a time that is convenient to you. We will also ensure that it is an accurate
     record.

6.   When you have given a statement, we will tell you what will happen next.

The investigation

7.   After you have given a statement, if the offence is serious and you are likely to give
     evidence in court, you will be updated at least once a month on the progress of the
     investigation.

8.   If you report any intimidation, we will consider whether you need additional support
     and will seek to provide it.

Support following a charge

9.   If someone is charged or released on bail, we will keep you informed about the
     case’s progress through the court process.

10. If you are a witness in a case that is going to trial, we will make a detailed
    assessment of your needs.

Preparing for court

11. We will make arrangements for your attendance at court to meet your personal
    circumstances, and we can refer you to specific organisations if you need further
    support.

12. We will take account of your availability when setting a date for trial.


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13. We will ensure that cases involving vulnerable witnesses, including child witnesses,
    are brought to trial as quickly as possible.

14. We will give you advance notice of the trial date and any changes to it and try to
    ensure that you only attend court when you are to give evidence.

15. We will give you information about what happens at court and will help you to give
    evidence in court.

16. We will give you practical details about the court where you will be giving evidence.

17. We will offer you the opportunity to visit the court building ahead of the trial.

In the court building

18. You will be able to bring someone to support you at court.

19. You can receive practical and emotional support at court, before and during the trial,
    from the Witness Service and other support agencies.

20. When you attend court, we will provide you with information about the building layout
    and where and when your case will be heard.

21. We will take action to help keep you safe at court, including keeping prosecution and
    defence witnesses separate where possible.

22. The relevant lawyer, where practicable, will seek to introduce themselves on the day
    and will seek to answer any practical questions you may have.

23. We will provide you with a clean and comfortable waiting area.

24. We will try to ensure that you wait no more than two hours in the Crown Court or
    more than one hour in a magistrates’ court to give evidence; if you have to wait
    longer than this, we will regularly update you on progress.

In the courtroom

25. At court, we will make provision for any disability or medical condition that you have.

26. We will make sure that any special measure granted by the court is made available.

27. If you have any language or communication needs, we will provide an interpreter or
    signer.

28. You will be able to use the holy book of your religion to give your oath, or you can
    choose to ‘affirm’ that you promise to tell the truth. We will respect your needs in the
    witness box.

29. We will challenge inappropriate cross-examination.


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After trial

30. After the trial, we will inform you of the result of the case.

31. We will inform you of any appeal against conviction or the sentence.

32. We will help you get further support after the trial if you need it.

33. We will tell you how to claim expenses for travel costs or loss of earnings, where you
    have an entitlement.

34. If you are unhappy with the level of service that you have received, we will tell you
    how to make a formal complaint.

Further information
You can get general information about the criminal justice system (the police, the courts
and the Crown Prosecution Service) and more information about being a witness from
www.cjsonline.gov.uk/witness.

Visit www.cjsonline.gov.uk/victim for more information for victims of crime.




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