Witness Support Charter

1. Introduction

2. Who is a victim or witness?

3. Reporting Anti Social Behaviour

4. Help available to witnesses

5. Managing your case

6. Partnership Working

7. Being a Witness

8. Making a Statement

9. Preparing for Court

10. Actions we may request at court

11. Support at Court

12. The witness box and cross examination

13. After the court hearing

14. Closing your case

15. Feedback

16. Frequently Asked Questions

17. Useful Telephone Numbers

 

1. Introduction

This Witness Charter explains our commitment to anyone who reports serious anti social behaviour (ASB) to us. Examples of ASB may include drug dealing, threatening behaviour, violence or hate crimes.

However we deal with your complaint, whether this be through early intervention or by taking legal action, this charter sets out the help and support you can expect to receive at every stage of the process from everyone involved.

As a witness, you play a vital role in protecting your community and making sure justice is done. We understand that the needs of a witness will differ from person to person and we will ensure that the support we provide is tailored to your individual needs.

You will be treated fairly and with respect regardless of race, religion, background, transgender, gender, age, sexuality or disability.

2. Who is a victim or witness?

A victim is:

‘a person who has experienced nuisance, harassment, alarm or distress or any other anti social behaviour’

A witness is someone who:

• knows something about a particular crime, incident or dispute

• has specialist knowledge that would be useful in a trial

• knows someone involved in a case (a character witness)

3. Reporting Anti Social Behaviour

When you report an incident of serious anti social behaviour to us, we will:

3.1 Make it as easy as possible for you to report incidents of anti social behaviour.

You can report to us in the following ways:

  • By telephone: 01827 709709
  • Via the internet at: www.tamworth.gov.uk (Report it online)
  • Via the Noise App

3.2 Take as much information as possible from you to ensure the information is accurate and pass it to a Case Officer

3.3 Allocate a Case Officer who will respond to you in person within 24 hours if the ASB is very serious or within 5 days if the ASB is serious

3.4 Arrange to meet you to take full details of your complaint and carry out a risk assessment. This will help us to identify the support most appropriate to your needs

3.5 Agree an Action Plan with you and confirm this in writing

4. Help available to witnesses

Everyone who makes a complaint to us about anti social behaviour will be offered support and reassurance.  The Tenancy Sustainment Officer will carry out a risk assessment in order to tailor the support to your needs.

If you feel particularly threatened or vulnerable we will consider whether you need additional support measures, which may include:

  • Fitting fireproof letter box covers
  • Installing door spy holes
  • Installing external security lights
  • Issuing personal attack alarms
  • Tailored support for high risk victims
  • Making referrals to other agencies for specific support including the Victims Gateway Staffordshire

Your Tenancy Sustainment Officer will review your case with you at timescales agreed in your action plan and go through any concerns you may have.  If the case escalates in between these times, you should notify the officer immediately.

5. Managing your case

The Tenancy Sustainment Officer will contact you at the start of your case. For very serious cases this will be within 24 hours and for serious cases within 5 working days.

Your officer will explain the legal and non-legal remedies that are available for your case and discuss the actions he/she can take.

You will receive regular updates on the progress of your case. We aim to contact no longer than every 10 working days, or as individually agreed with you, by the form of communication that suits you i.e. text, email, phone, letter.

There are a number of ways to gather evidence when investigating a case. One of these is submitting online incident reports and submitting recordings via the Noise App.  This builds up a picture of the perpetrator’s behaviour and can be used to put together a witness statement.

6. Partnership Working

We will:

6.1 work with partner agencies to tackle anti social behaviour swiftly

6.2 promote partnership working to reduce nuisance, anti social behaviour and crime

It may be necessary for us to work with other agencies on your case, thus requiring us to share information.  Information sharing with other agencies will be discussed with you by your case officer.

7. Being a Witness

Witnesses play a crucial role in reporting and providing evidence of anti social behaviour, which can help us take enforcement action against perpetrators.

If you have suffered or witnessed anti social behaviour, you may be asked to provide a witness statement and give evidence in court.

This is very important to us, you and the community because if an offender doesn’t stop being anti social, we sometimes need to go to court to make them stop.  To take a case to court, we need evidence and witnesses often provide this evidence.

We will always ask your permission before using your statement as part of any legal proceedings.

8. Making a Statement

Before we decide whether or not to take legal action we will meet with you to take a witness statement.

If we ask you to provide a witness statement, we will explain why we need it, what it will be used for, who we will share it with, what actions we are considering and discuss the possible outcomes of any court hearing.

The statement will be written based on evidence you have supplied to us (records of incidents, phone calls, etc.) and you will be asked to check it for accuracy and sign it only if you are happy that it is a true account. 

9. Preparing for Court

Your case officer will explain what to expect at court and answer any questions you have.

You will be asked to make a formal witness statement and sign it to confirm it is a true copy.  At the same time, your case officer will contact the offender and let them know what we intend to do and advise them not to approach any witnesses involved in the case.

When the application for a hearing is made to the court, you will be notified in advance and will be offered the opportunity to visit the court beforehand to familiarise yourself with the layout and process (see section 11 for support at court).  The court will decide what date it will hear the case but we can ask them to consider dates that you may be unavailable.  We will contact you as soon as a court date is set and let you know if you are required to attend and give evidence.

Before the court date, we will have to supply evidence we intend to rely on at court to the Defendant (perpetrator). This will include your witness statement so we will be sure to let you know when this is going to happen so you can be prepared. 

10. Actions we may request at court

There are a number of actions that can be taken either to stop the behaviour or to remove the offender from their home including:

  • Civil Injunction – a court order that prohibits the offender from doing something and can also instruct them to do something positive.  We may ask for a Power of Arrest to be attached so the offender is arrested if he/she breaches the injunction.  This usually happens where there is violence or a threat of violence involved.  They will then be produced at court within 24 hours and the judge will hear the details of the breach.
  • Undertaking – rather than go through the whole injunction procedure, the Defendant may agree to give an undertaking to the court that they will not cause anti social behaviour in the future. Breach of this undertaking will still be contempt of court and the Defendant could still face a prison sentence.
  • Demotion Order – the court can demote a tenant so they lose their security for 12 months.  This means they have no right to exchange or right to buy.  If they breach this order within the 12 months, we can re-apply to the court for a possession order.
  • Suspended Possession Order – this is an order for possession of somebody’s home.  Sometimes, the court will make the order but suspend it or we may agree to suspension. In this case, the judge will award possession of the property but suspend this order for a set period of time (for example 12 months).  If the order is breached within this time, Tamworth Borough Council can apply for a warrant for possession of the property.
  • Outright Possession Order – as above but the judge will not suspend the order. This will usually give the perpetrator time to pack up and leave the property and can be immediately (forthwith) or a date set by the court.  If the perpetrator does not leave by that date, Tamworth Borough Council can apply for a warrant for possession of the property.
  • Mandatory Possession – this is where the offence is sufficiently serious that the judge has no other option but to give a possession order. As with the above orders, if the perpetrator does not leave by the date issued by the court, a warrant for possession will be requested and the bailiff will issue an eviction date.
  • Committal – where an injunction is breached on more than one occasion, we can ask the court to send the offender to prison. This becomes a criminal offence and will usually go in front of a Circuit Judge. The judge can decide whether to give the offender a fine, suspended sentence or committal to prison.

11. Support at Court

We will arrange transport for you to and from the court hearing or reimburse you for fuel and parking costs if you prefer to drive.  We will meet you and take you into the court. You can bring somebody with you to support you if this would make you more comfortable but we will be with you the whole time.  Refreshments will be provided for you on the day including lunch if the case takes all day.

Security officers search everyone who enters the building for weapons, recording equipment and aerosols so it is best to just bring only what you need. Sharp items that are perceived to be dangerous will not be returned when you leave.

If the perpetrator arrives and you are particularly nervous, we can ask the court in advance to use a separate waiting room while you wait for the case to be heard.

It is possible the case won’t be heard on that day if the judge decides he needs more time to hear the case. If this happens, another date will be provided for a ‘full’ hearing and all parties are given ‘directions’ (a list of tasks to complete).

In some cases, where the victim cannot attend court for fear of the perpetrator, we may be able to ask the court to accept ‘hearsay’ evidence. However, this holds much less weight as the judge likes to speak to the witness to understand the impact the perpetrator’s behaviour is having on them.

12. The witness box and cross examination

When you are needed to give evidence, you will be shown to the witness box where you will have the option to take an oath on the bible or ‘affirm’ which is a promise to tell the truth and does not require the use of a bible.

The judge is usually a District Judge.  If you are asked a question by anybody, you should always give your answer to the judge.  Judges should be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.  In the case of a Circuit Judge, you should address them as ‘Your Honour’.

Although ‘hearsay’ evidence is admissible, the judge likes to speak to the witness to fully understand the impact of anti social behaviour on you, your family and the community.

After our solicitor or barrister has questioned you, the defence lawyer may want to ask you questions. The judge will make sure that you are treated fairly and not asked inappropriate questions. Once you have given evidence, you will usually be allowed to leave. You can stay and listen to the rest of the case in the public gallery if you wish to.

13.   After the court hearing

You will be notified of the outcome of the case in person directly after the case then a confirmation letter will be sent to all parties involved in the case detailing the judge’s decision. Support will remain in place if the anti social behaviour continues.

We do publicise successful outcomes but will not name you.

14. Closing your case

We will usually close a case for the following reasons:

  • The anti social behaviour has ceased
  • You ask us not to pursue the case
  • You fail to engage with us
  • Lack of evidence

Sometimes we may close a case and you don’t agree with this decision.  In these circumstances, we will explain fully our reasons for closing the case and you will have an opportunity to appeal this decision.

15. Feedback

We want to support you as a witness and ensure that you receive a high standard of service.   If you have been dissatisfied with the service and/or support you have received from us, we will provide you with details of our complaints procedure

After your case has been closed, we will ask you to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Our Tenant Participation team will attempt to complete this with you over the phone.  If they can’t reach you, it will be sent in the post with a prepaid envelope.

16. Frequently Asked Questions

What is my role in the case?

You are a witness giving evidence for Tamworth Borough Council. It will be our case. Sometimes, before or during court hearings, the Claimant or the Defendant may offer an Order or conditions as court rules state parties should always attempt to resolve the matter outside of the court room.  We will discuss this with you but the final decision will rest with us as the Claimant (the party taking the case to court)

How long with the court hearing last?

Initial hearings at court usually last no longer than 15 minutes.  Depending on the number of witnesses the full hearing could range from half a day to a full week.  You will not be required to attend the whole of this time.  Once you have given your evidence, the court will usually allow you to leave.

What will I be expected to do?

When you take the stand, you will be asked to swear on the bible or affirm that you are telling the truth.  Your witness statement will be in front of you.  You will be asked some simple questions such as ‘is this your witness statement’, ‘is that your signature’ and ‘is that a true record of events’.  Our solicitor may then ask you a couple of questions to confirm the anti social behaviour you have experienced. 

The Defendant and/or their solicitor may wish to ask you further questions about your witness statement.  The Judge may also ask you questions about what you have experienced and how it has made you feel.  All the answers you give in court should be addressed to the Judge who should be referred to as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’. If it is a Circuit Judge, you would use ‘Your Honour’.

All you have to do is tell the truth.

Will the Defendant know I am a witness?

Yes. When we apply to the court, we have to hand in all evidence that we intend to rely on in court – this will include your witness statement.  The Defendant is also entitled to a copy to allow them to respond to the allegations made against them.  We will always let you know when we do this.

Can I remain anonymous?

We encourage you to attend court and give evidence as the judge gives this more weight and will want to speak to you to find out how the anti social behaviour is making you feel.   If you decide you wish to remain anonymous, we can arrange for hearsay evidence to be given at court but this will hold a lesser weight.

What happens after the hearing?

If the court grants an order, a time limit is usually given and the anti social behaviour will usually stop.  We will write to you outlining the details of the order and what this means for you.  If the problem stops, we will close the case.

What should I do if the perpetrator breaches the court order?

We will usually tell you what to do in case of a breach after the court hearing.  However, if there is a breach, please report this to us as soon as possible and we will consider what we can do.  If the order was granted with a Power of Arrest, you should ring the police immediately as a statement will be required from you prior to arresting the perpetrator.

17. Useful Telephone Numbers

Tamworth Borough Council Neighbourhood Services Team

01827 709 709 – to report new ASB

01827 709 514 – ongoing enquiries (have your case number to hand)

Staffordshire Police

999 – Emergencies Only

101 – Non-emergencies and to report incidents

Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111