Q. Someone has been charged with committing a crime against me but I am worried that he will be released from custody – what can I do?
A. Sometimes an accused is kept in prison until the trial but most are released on bail. You should tell the police and the procurator fiscal about any concerns. The fiscal may be able to ask the court for special conditions to be imposed if bail is granted, such as not approaching or contacting you.
Q. The police can’t find the person who committed a crime against me – what happens now?
A. If there is enough evidence, the procurator fiscal can go to a Sheriff and ask for a warrant to be granted so that the accused can be arrested and brought to court.
Q. I have been asked to give evidence – do I have to?
A. Depending on the circumstances, some victims of crime are asked to give evidence. If you have received a witness citation, you must attend. All witnesses must give evidence in court rather than have their statements read out. Failing to attend may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. The procurator fiscal or police will contact you if you are no longer needed to give evidence. Witnesses play an essential part in the justice system, providing important information about court cases. Advice, assistance and support services are available. Special arrangements can sometimes be made for elderly, disabled or vulnerable witnesses. You can also bring someone with you when you come to court. Interpreters can be arranged if English is not your first language. The accused does not get to see your statement.
Q. Can I drop the charges against the person accused of the crime?
A. The decision to charge someone with a crime is made independently by the procurator fiscal if enough evidence is available, taking into account the wider public interest. If you have any concerns, you should contact the fiscal.
Q. Will I see the accused in court?
A. To ensure justice is done, it is important for the accused to attend the court hearing. Some special measures can be taken to help vulnerable witnesses, including all children, such as giving evidence from behind a screen in the courtroom or by a television link, or having a support person with you in court. You will only be in the same room as the accused when you are giving evidence.
Q. How long will I be in court?
A. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly how long a case will last. The court staff will keep you informed about the progress of your case.
Q. Do I need a lawyer?
A. COPFS prosecutes crime in the public interest rather than representing anyone involved in a case. Depending on the circumstances of the case, some victims will have a lawyer. COPFS operates the Victim Information and Advice service to give help and support to victims.
Q. What is a victim statement?
A. Victims or relatives of serious crimes are given the opportunity to make a written statement telling the court about the physical, emotional or financial impact of the crime. The judge must take the statement into account when deciding on a sentence. Help is available if you want to make a statement, for instance, from the COPFS Victim Information and Advice service.
Q. Will my personal details, such as my address, be read out in court?
A. Some victims can ask for their address not to be read out in court if they do not want the accused to know where they live, though it may have to be referred to if it is where the crime took place.
Q. Will a police officer be in court?
A. Only those giving evidence, though security officers are present during court hearings.
Q. The accused has been imprisoned but I don’t know where – can you tell me?
A. You should contact the Scottish Prison Service for any information about prisoners.
Q. My case isn’t being dealt with by my local procurator fiscal’s office – why?
A. It is probably being dealt with by specialist fiscals due to the type of offence that has alleged to have taken place. The specialist fiscals are experts at dealing with particular types of cases.