The Government introduced Witness Care Units (WCUs) across England and Wales to help improve the experiences of victims and witnesses of crime as they became involved in the Criminal Justice System. These units are run by Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) staff, in joint partnership.
In Lancashire the WCUs are split into two. The CPS WCU is based at Preston and deals with offences that occurred in the Leyland, Preston, Chorley and Skelmersdale areas of Lancashire.
The police staffed WCU is based in Chorley and deals with all the other cases in Lancashire.
The units are a single point of contact for all victims and witnesses, and are there to provide support and information from the first hearing of a case in the Magistrates Court through to the conclusion of the case.
Under The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, the Witness Care Unit has a statutory obligation to:
- Tell Victims and witnesses if they are required to give evidence
- Tell all Victims and any witnesses attending court the dates of the court hearings
- Tell Victims and witnesses about court results and explain any sentence given within one day of receiving the outcome in the Witness Care Unit from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Each case listed for a court hearing after the initial first hearing has a dedicated Witness Care Officer (WCO) allocated to it, they will be the single point of contact for the Victims and Witnesses in that particular case.
If you’re a victim of crime or a witness for the prosecution, the witness care officer will let you know the date of the trial. They will help arrange childcare or transport for you to get to the Court. If you wish to have a look around the Court before the trial they will also arrange this with the Witness Service which in Lancashire is run by the Citizens Advice Service.
Your Witness Care officer can also arrange for Special Measures to be requested from the court if you are classed as a vulnerable or intimidated witness; are disabled; are under 18 years of age; if you are afraid to give evidence or if you are the a victim of a sexual offence. These measures include screens to stop you from having to see the defendant; giving evidence via a live CCTV link; giving evidence in private for cases of a sexual nature or where the court considers that the witness may be vulnerable or intimidated; giving video-recorded evidence in chief; ordering the removal of wigs and gowns; allowing the use of witness intermediaries to help witnesses communicate to the court along with additional aids to communication, such as alphabet boards.
Your WCO will discuss your needs with you to see if you are eligible for Special Measures, if you are they will let you know if they have been granted by the court prior to the trial date. Your WCO will also keep you updated of Court results in key stages of the Court process depending if you are a victim or witness in the case. Your WCO is also there to assist you with any problems or questions you may have about attending court and the court process.
Victims of crime are also eligible to make a Victim Personal Statement (VPS). This allows victims an opportunity to tell Criminal Justice agencies and the Courts about how the crime has affected their lives. It also helps the agencies involved to understand the impact of the crime on the victim so that they can make informed decisions about the case. Your WCO will explain this to you and can arrange for a VPS to be taken by a police officer.
In a VPS as a victim you may wish to include a number of things such as any physical, financial, emotional or psychological injury that you have suffered and/or any treatment you may have received as a result of the crime; if you feel vulnerable or intimidated; if you no longer feel safe; how the crime has impacted on your family and how your quality of life has changed on a day-to-day basis. This is an opportunity for the victim of the crime to have a say in the criminal Justice Process.
The role of the WCO is to try to improve the experience of attending Court for victims and witnesses by allowing them to be better informed about the role they will play in the prosecution process and in doing so helping to bring more offenders to justice. They are also responsible for referring victims and witnesses to any relevant support agencies should this be required. These may be the Lancashire Victim Services, individual charities, Citizens Advice, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) or the Restorative Justice Team
If you are unhappy with the service provided by your WCO please contact the Witness Care Manager for the unit concerned.
- Manager Rachel Woodcock, Telephone 01257 246257.
- Chorley WCU telephone number - 01257 246272
- Secure e-mail box: [email protected]
- Manager – Mr Ian Crane, Telephone 01772 593075.
- Preston WCU telephone number - 01772 208284
- Secure e-mail box: [email protected]