What happens at the Magistrate's Court or Royal Court
Most criminal trials take place in the Magistrate’s Court. The Magistrate listens to all the evidence and decides whether the person accused of the crime (the accused) is guilty or not. If the accused is found guilty (is convicted), the Magistrate will decide on the sentence. Magistrates in Jersey differ from those in the UK in that they are examining Magistrates. This means that they will ask questions themselves as there is usually no counsel to argue the case for the prosecution. There may however be an advocate to argue for the accused.
More serious cases are dealt with at the Royal Court. You would only be concerned with the Royal Court if the case was a sufficiently serious case to be remanded to the higher court.
You may be required to give evidence at trial before the Inferior Number of the Royal Court consisting of the Bailiff, or his Deputy, and a number of Jurats. Or, you may be required to give evidence in the Assize Court which is presided over by the Bailiff or his Deputy. Evidence is heard by a jury of twelve people.
In the Magistrate’s Court there will be the Centenier who presents the case, the Greffier (who is the Magistrate’s Clerk), Ushers, Police, Viscount’s Officer and Probation Officers. There may also be other witnesses, a defending advocate, press reporters and members of the public.
The Royal Court will have much the same people, except that the Attorney General, or his representative, presents the case instead of the Centenier.
Being warned for court
If you are appearing as a witness in the Magistrate’s Court, the Police will telephone you with the time and place. The Viscount’s Department performs the same function for witnesses appearing in the Royal Court, and they will notify you by summons. You should normally have been given informal warning of the court date by the Law Officers’ Department. You must appear at court in answer to the warning or summons. If you foresee any difficulties, contact whoever warned or summoned you to explain the circumstances. For example, you may require the services of an interpreter. If you are a victim of crime, someone from Victim Support may go with you.
Before you go to court
- dress appropriately for a court appearance
- make sure you know where the court is. Magistrate’s Court is in Union Street (next to Cyril Le Marquand House). The Royal Court is in the Royal Square
- be prepared to wait your turn to give evidence. You may wish to take a magazine or book to read
Appearing in court
- make sure you arrive in time for the hearing bringing with you any relevant papers
- tell the usher who you are and the name of the accused. You will be shown where to wait
- it is advisable not to talk to anyone about the evidence you will be giving in the case; you may be asked about this in court. If you do discuss the case with other people you may unwittingly prejudice your evidence. (You can of course speak to the police, lawyers, court officials or other people who are dealing with the case)
- do not leave the court until you are told that you are no longer needed
- if you have an important reason to leave early, tell the usher before the case starts. It may be possible for you to give evidence out of turn, although this cannot always be arranged
- if you want to see inside any court (including the Royal Court) before the case, you can do this by contacting the police officer in charge of the case or the Victim Support Scheme volunteer
- your case may be delayed or even put off to another date. This may be because an earlier case has gone on longer than expected or a person in the case does not arrive. Sometimes an accused pleads guilty on the day of the trial so witnesses are told at the last minute that their evidence is not needed
When you give evidence
When you are called into the court you will be shown to the witness box. You should stand, but if you find this difficult, ask to sit. You will then take the oath, that is to swear before God to tell the truth. If you prefer, you can affirm, that is to promise to tell the truth. If you want to affirm, tell the usher beforehand.
- the accused may have entered a plea of not guilty. Your evidence will help the court to decide whether the person is guilty or not guilty
- address all your answers to the Magistrate or to the presiding Judge in the Royal Court
- say if you are not sure of an answer
- take your time and speak slowly and clearly
- ask for questions to be repeated if you do not understand or cannot hear
- you can ask the Magistrate / Judge for advice
- unless you are the accused, you can only say what you saw or heard, not what someone else has told you (known as hearsay)
- during your evidence you may be asked questions by the Magistrate / Judge. The accused’s advocate can also ask questions; this is called cross-examination. When you have finished giving your evidence you may be told you are free to leave the court. You may, if you wish, either leave or sit in the public area and listen to the rest of the case. Sometimes you might have to stay after you have given evidence. This usually only happens when there may be a possibility of your being asked to give further evidence or clarify some matter
You can find more information about appearing as a witness in the Magistrate's Court, Youth Court or Royal Court in the Witness Charter.
Download the Witness Charter (size 6.5mb)
If you have been injured through a crime of violence, you can apply for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. It does not matter whether the offender has been caught or not.
If you have suffered personal injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence, you may make an application to the court for the accused to pay compensation to you, currently to a maximum of £5,000 in the Magistrate’s Court. Produce any receipts or documents you may have to support your claim. If such an order is made, this is paid to you before the court collects any fines that it may impose.
If you are a witness for the prosecution, you can claim back expenses incurred by travelling to court by public transport (if you have to travel from the UK your air fare will also be refunded) and a subsistence allowance (meal allowance). You may also be granted an allowance to compensate you for lost wages.
If you have incurred any expenses, ask the Usher for a Witness Costs Claim Form before you leave the Court. Again, it would be helpful if you can produce receipts or documents in support of your claim.
Thank you for your time and trouble.
If you have any other queries or fears, make contact with the Police Officer in charge of the case.
| Useful Telephone Numbers|
| Judicial Greffe
||+44 (0) 1534 441300 |
| Magistrate’s Court Greffe
||+44 (0) 1534 440455 |
| Police Headquarters
||+44 (0) 1534 612612 |
| Domestic Violence Officer
||+44 (0) 1534 612243 |
||+44 (0) 1534 441933|
| Victim Support
||+44 (0) 1534 440496 |
| Criminal Injuries Compensation Board
||+44 (0) 1534 441028 |
||+44 (0) 1534 441800|
| Children’s Service
||+44 (0) 1534 870600 |
| Women’s Refuge
||+44 (0) 1534 768368|
| Royal Court Enquiries
||+44 (0) 1534 441300 |
| Viscount’s Department
||+44 (0) 1534 441400 |
| Citizens Advice Bureau
||+44 (0) 8007 350249|
+44 (0) 1534 724942