Support and information for witnesses of criminal, civil and Children’s Hearing court cases in Scotland.
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Before the court case, you will receive a citation or letter giving you a date for the case to start. This citation is a formal notice to attend court as a witness or defendant.
Click here for more about the citation and what to do. The term is often used interchangable with “charge sheet”.
In both a criminal and children’s hearing court case, if you do not turn up, the court can issue you with a summons or issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are worried about giving evidence, you should speak to the person who has cited you to be a witness.
What happens when people are released from custody
Most people who are arrested will be released from custody quickly. Depending on the nature of the crime, if the police know who they are, where they live and consider that they will not present a risk, they may be released once they have had their photographs, fingerprints and DNA samples taken.
The police will then prepare a report about the crime to the Procurator Fiscal (PF). The Procurator Fiscal (sometimes called the Fiscal) is responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland. If the suspect is under 16, the police will usually refer the young person to the Children’s Reporter to consider the case and decide what action to take. This process is explained in more detail in the Youth Justice section of the website.
Depending on the nature of the crime, and if the police think it is important that the case is heard at court quickly, the person may be released on an Undertaking. This means they will promise to attend court when told to (usually within two or three weeks). They must also agree to certain conditions they must not commit any further crimes, and must not interfere with witnesses. This is often called being bailed from the police station, but another term for this is liberation, or liberation on undertaking.
Once the person has been released, the police will send a report to the Procurator Fiscal.
Tell the police everything you know about the case and the accused
In law someone is innocent until they are proven guilty, and so they should not be kept in police custody unless there are good reasons for doing so. The police decide whether to keep the accused in custody or to release them. That officer must know as much as possible about the case and the person. So, if you think you know something that may be of relevance and might help them decide, you should let the police know immediately.
Why someone may not be released
Depending on the crime, or if the police think the person may commit more crimes, or will be a risk to an individual, or to the public, they may be held in custody until the next court day (or over the weekend, if they were arrested on a Friday). If so, the police will prepare a custody report for the Procurator Fiscal (PF) for the next day. When the accused appears in court they are entitled to apply for bail and, unless the Fiscal can argue that there are strong reasons why the person should not be released, they will be given bail (released) until the trial. Reasons why someone may not get bail include a serious chance that the accused will commit more crimes, abscond, or is a danger to witnesses, or other members of the public.
What to do if you are worried about the accused being released
If the Procurator Fiscal knows about any concerns you have, they may be able to ask the court for some special conditions for bail. Tell the police officer you are dealing with or the Fiscal or your lawyer about any concerns as soon as possible. If the Fiscal does not know of your concerns, they can’t tell the court.
Suspects released on bail, will be told not to interfere with you, or any other witnesses, in any way. They must not behave in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress to you or any other witness. Sometimes (special) conditions will be attached to their bail. For instance, the accused could be told that they are not allowed to enter a certain shop, or go to a particular place. If the person does approach or bother you, you must tell the police straight away as they can arrest the person if they are breaking their conditions of bail.
CONTENTIOUS proposals to make defendants contribute in advance to their legal aid costs have been put on hold following a threat by lawyers to drop clients who fail to pay up front.
New legislation, aimed at cutting the legal aid bill, would see defendants paying lawyers directly, instead of legal firms collecting money from the state.
The move, which was due to come into effect later this year, has been widely opposed by lawyers who fear losing out financially if clients refuse to contribute before their case is due to be heard.
Guidance from the Law Society of Scotland, published in The Scotsman last month, advised lawyers not to appear in court on behalf of clients unless they had paid in advance, raising the prospect of hundreds of defendants being left to represent themselves and potentially opening up the Scottish court system to countless miscarriage of justice claims.
Last night, the Scottish Government said a revised timetable for introducing client contributions would be announced shortly.
“Legislation to introduce contributions for criminal legal aid was passed by parliament last year as part of a programme of reforms in Scotland to reduce spending while continuing to protect the range of cases eligible for legal aid,” a spokesman said.
“Following the changes to criminal work guidance recently announced by the Law Society, we have delayed the implementation of contributions, to ensure that these changes are taken into account.”
A series of public roadshows designed to explain the changes has also been postponed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (Slab), it was confirmed yesterday.