to say I can't be a witness?

(24 Posts)
Narnia72 Sun 28-Feb-16 16:00:39

Can I do this? I will obviously ring the police station tomorrow, but, to cut a long story short, my SIL was horrifically scammed by a con artist. He is representing himself in court and has called me as a witness, saying that I observed several inappropriate behaviours by SIL to him and that I signed a document (no-one has so far been able to tell me what this document is).

I met this man once, for 5 minutes only outside SIL's flat. That's it. I have made a statement to the police to this effect and they said the judge probably wouldn't require me to attend court based on my statement.

However, I received a letter yesterday saying I would be called as a witness. Now, I would like to support SIL in any case, and would - in other circs - make myself available to attend and support her. BUT

My sis and family, who lives in NZ and whom I haven't seen for 3 years, is coming over at the time of the court case. I have informed the school I'm taking my children out for a week (they haven't authorised it officially but HT is on board) and we are all going to stay with other sis, 200 miles away for 2 weeks, with my parents. My father isn't in the best of health, and in the back of all our minds is the thought that this might be our last ever holiday together. We can't afford to go over to NZ and they are unlikely to be able to come back for at least another 3 years. So it's a big deal for us.

The court case comes bang slap in the middle of the 2 weeks. Without wanting to drip feed, the holiday can't be moved back because I am tagging onto existing school holiday, and can't be moved forward because she has to go back to NZ.

The letter says the case will be on for 5 days, but I won't be needed for all 5 days, however, I need to make myself available for them all.

What can I do? As I said, I've already made a statement with all the information I have. I've refuted his statement and there is no evidence, unless he's forged my signature (unlikely as he's never seen it) that I've signed anything. The case is being brought by the CPS on behalf of my SIL, because he conned and stole from her. Whether I've signed a document or not cannot possibly be relevant to the case. The police officer who took my statement seemed to think it was a pretty clear cut case against him, there is CCTV of him using the card he stole.

I will be in the UK, so I was thinking that I could offer to go to the local court and they could maybe do a video link. I don't even know that is possible, especially for such a minor witness as myself.

Help, any advice?

WhyCantIuseTheNameIWant Sun 28-Feb-16 16:04:51

Do you have to 'be there'?

Video-link?

Phone the court and ask them.

MrsH1989 Sun 28-Feb-16 16:05:44

I would speak to the officer in charge of the case and see how important your testimony is. If it crucial to the case then I imagine you could, like you say give evidence from another court via video link.

OurBlanche Sun 28-Feb-16 16:09:05

Who sent the letter?

If it was from a solicitor you can refuse. Ask your SILs legal team too. They will be able to explain the specific details to you.

FishWithABicycle Sun 28-Feb-16 16:11:04

Justice trumps holiday plans, and the accused has the right to have witnesses cross examined in court. Ask if the court case dates can be rearranged or if you can appear by video link from wherever you will be but if you don't make yourself available you will be guilty of contempt of court and could go to prison. Participation in justice is part of living in a democracy and you must prioritise it over other concerns.

TeaBelle Sun 28-Feb-16 16:13:23

If either party insist on you being there then they can supoena you to attend. However of you explain your situation to the solicitor who has requested your attendance, they should accommodate your situation by giving a more specific time frame - normally it would mean you going nearish to the beginning as it's more predictable.

redexpat Sun 28-Feb-16 16:16:10

He might change his plea when he gets to court. But yes, be prepared to disrupt your plans. I know it's a pain but it's just one of those things unfortunately.

Iamnotloobrushphobic Sun 28-Feb-16 16:16:52

You can have a summons issued against you if you refuse to be a witness in court despite it being known that you are a witness and have relative information. If a summons is issued you will have no choice but to attend (unless you are genuinely ill in hospital etc).
The court will not set up a video link for such a trivial case, despite somebody suggesting it above.

ScOffasDyke Sun 28-Feb-16 16:21:28

All criminal courts now use video link for witnesses as a matter of routine, regardless of how serious or trivial the charge may be

Lightbulbon Sun 28-Feb-16 16:22:04

If you have a summons you have to go.

Its odd that it's the other side who want you as a witness.

Oysterbabe Sun 28-Feb-16 16:23:08

Tell them. They may look to adjourn if you are considered an essential witness. As pp said, they'll probably summons you.

Ybaby Sun 28-Feb-16 16:26:45

Loobrush is right about the video link and the fact that you can be summonsed if you don't attend I'm afraid - but - is it the CPS who want to call you or is it from the defendant (as he's representing himself)? The CPS have to serve all the statements taken in a case on the defence and if he says he has questions for you they have to ask you to come to court.
All you can do is to get in touch with the CPS (assuming the letter is from them) explain your circumstances and ask if they can give you a better idea of which day you will be called on.

littleleftie Sun 28-Feb-16 16:29:03

Oh dear - I was in a similar situation and had to go to court.

I was very annoyed but I just could not get out of it.

HazelBite Sun 28-Feb-16 16:30:43

Is it in a Crown Court?
If you arrive on the first day at the Court they should be able to give you some idea when you are likely to be called and will try and accomodate your needs as far as possible.

MrsTerryPratchett Sun 28-Feb-16 16:37:55

I think you have to go. But get some guidance on how long and when you are likely to be needed. His integrity is in question so him saying something that is a lie is very relevant to the case. Unfortunately.

Hopefully what happened to me will happen to you. The offender pleaded guilty the day before the case. In my case it was a violent assault I witnessed by a person subsequently convicted of a killing. So things could be worse.

coffeeinaredmug Sun 28-Feb-16 17:12:55

I so hate the legal system. I get cited as a witness for the prosecution all the time due to the nature of my work. I have yet to ever be called to give evidence. I cannot, however, just not turn up. I can get myself put on standby as i work nearby but if i didn't turn up or make this arrangement questions would be asked and i could be arrested. When i was ill i had to get special letters sent by my GP.

I would advise you to call the number on your letter (i am in Scotland so i can't offer you specifics) and discuss your issue. As people have said the defendant may lead guilty before or the court proceedings will be put off or delayed. Don't just ignore the letter.

DesertOrDessert Sun 28-Feb-16 17:13:51

When a case was being built that I was required to be witness at, I was asked, proir to scheduling, if I had any none avability. I'd ring the number on the letter, and explain you have pre existing commitments on those two weeks, including long haul flights, and ask what needs to happen.

Case was cancelled, and the bitch is free to damage other kids.

Narnia72 Sun 28-Feb-16 18:15:11

Thanks for all the advice.

The letter is from the Criminal Justice System, specifically from the Witness Care Team, county police. It says he's pleaded not guilty to all the offences listed against him and therefore I will be required to attend trial, the trial is expected to last for 5 days and I will not be needed for the full duration but I should make myself available to attend at any time throughout the trial. It then just gives details of who to contact.

It is in Crown Court Hazel.

I won't be ignoring the letter and will ring them to explain the situation. I just wanted to get an idea of whether there was anything I could do. I really want this scumbag to get his just desserts, but don't want to miss out on some very rare and important family times.

Fingers crossed they can do something, either the video link or give me an idea of when I might be called. It does say they'll pay reasonable expenses, so I could suggest I come back by train for the day, will be v expensive, but happy to do it if necessary.

coffeeinaredmug Sun 28-Feb-16 18:18:56

Another thing to consider is that if this is the first letter you have had about this case and you already have travel and accommodation booked you could write a letter saying you cannot attend as you have a pre-booked holiday and send copies of all the bookings. They then may defer the case until you are available if you are a key person or stand you down from attending.

RidersOnTheStorm Sun 28-Feb-16 18:25:41

DH wrote to the court to say we had a pre-booked holiday in similar circumstances. He sent proof of the dates etc.

The case was put back until he could attend.

Narnia72 Sun 28-Feb-16 18:56:04

The trouble is although my sister has booked her flights over, I don't have any bookings, because we are travelling by car and staying at my sister's house. We have booked the time in but no specifics I'll be losing money over, so I guess they could argue that there is nothing concrete to postpone for.

CallMeExhausted Sun 28-Feb-16 18:59:40

In your shoes, I WOULD appear as a witness, and tell the absolute truth. The con man wouldn't know what hit him.

Iamnotloobrushphobic Mon 29-Feb-16 13:09:28

All criminal courts now use video link for witnesses as a matter of routine, regardless of how serious or trivial the charge may be

Well that certainly isn't true in the courts where my DH works. It is actually quite difficult to get the court to agree to a video link unless the witness is a minor or deemed vulnerable or the defendant is high risk and they don't want to transport him from prison to court. The defence team can also make an application to have a witness present in court even after a video link has been agreed.

thecitydoc Mon 29-Feb-16 13:35:08

you have to go - failing to attend could land you with a contempt of court summons - this is looked upon as being very serious by the court and could land you in jail

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