There are a number of supportive processes in place to support individuals attending court:
There is one Witness Care Unit in Dorset which is staffed by Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who offer support and advice to victims and witnesses involved in cases in which someone has been charged with an offence and is being prosecuted through the courts. The Witness care Unit is divided into two teams, one of which deals with cases in the Magistrates Courts and the other deals with cases in the Crown Courts.
A Witness Care Officer will be allocated to your case and they will be your single point of contact, whether you are a victim of or witness to a crime. They provide a consistent and accessible service for dealing with individual needs, support and advice. If you wish to contact them directly, you can give them a call on:
01202 222722 / 222717 / 222724 / 222723 (Crown Court team) or
01202 222716 / 222714 / 222713 / 222715 (Magistrates Court team).
The Witness Care Unit ensures that all victims and witnesses are provided with the appropriate level of care and support throughout the Criminal Justice Process.
Appropriate adults are called to the police station as an important safeguard, providing independent support to detained people who:
- Appear to be aged under 18, or
- May be suffering from mental ill health or other mental vulnerability (e.g. learning disability).
The Appropriate Adult role is filled by many different types of people, including:
- parents or other family members
- friends or carers
- social workers
- charity workers
- specialist appropriate adults either paid or voluntary
Some people are not allowed to be an Appropriate Adult:
- anyone under the age of 18
- anyone who has received admissions prior to attending
- anyone who might be a suspects, victim, witness or otherwise involved in the investigation
- solicitors and independent custody visitors at the police station in those capacities
- police and their employees
Appropriate Adults are not simply an observer. Their role is to assist the person to ensure that they understand what is happening at the police station during the interview and investigative stages. Appropriate Adults should:
- support, advise and assist the person
- ensure that the person understands their rights
- ensure that the police act fairly and respect the rights of the person
- ensure effective communication between the person, the police and others.
They are not there to provide the person with legal advice and should not attempt to do so.
Further detail on the role of Appropriate Adults is available at: National Appropriate Adult Network
In Bournemouth and Poole, the specific services of a witness profiler are used to support victims with learning difficulties through the court process. This person is funded by two Local Authorities and works within the learning and disability team, as a learning and disability advisor. The profiler works closely with staff in the Police/CPS Witness Care Unit and has created an easy to read letter to be sent to victims and witnesses who have learning disabilities who are required to give evidence in court.