Who’s who in a Magistrates’ Court?
A magistrates’ court is open to the public. They can sit quietly and listen at the back of the court.
The Witness Service Room
This is situated within the courthouse and is separate to the courtroom itself.
The Witness Service operates in every court and is run by the independent charity Victim Support. It provides support for both prosecution witnesses and defence witnesses attending court. They cannot talk about why you have been asked to be a witness but they will be a friendly face to welcome you.
They offer a comfortable environment for witnesses to sit and read their statements before they are asked to give their evidence. On arrival at court please ask for the witness service room.
The magistrates are in charge of the courtroom. Usually there are three of them. The magistrates wear ordinary clothes; they do not wear wigs or gowns like Judges in the Crown Courts. The magistrates’ decide if the person has broken the law after hearing the evidence from both the prosecution and the defence.
The Legal Advisor
The legal advisor sits at the front of the court and takes care of all the papers that are needed during a trial.
The defendant is the person who has been accused of breaking the law. The defendant sits in the dock and is not usually allowed to speak to you.
The Defence Lawyer
It is the defence lawyer’s job to help the defendant. This lawyer also asks the witnesses questions and tries to show that the defendant didn’t break the law.
The usher wears a black robe and tells you when it is your turn to come into the courtroom.
The witness answers questions from a place in the courtroom called the witness box. There are circumstances in which this is not suitable for witnesses. This is only in exceptional circumstances, your Witness Care Officer will fully explain if you are not giving your evidence in the usual way.
The Prosecution Lawyer
The prosecution lawyer tries to show the defendant has broken the law. He or she does this by presenting evidence and asking the witness questions about what they saw or heard or what happened to them. You will get to see the statement you have provided to the police before you are asked questions in the courtroom.