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Testifying in court after serious assault by Ex H

(15 Posts)
GirlInterupted Tue 09-Jun-15 22:09:28

I'm not great at writing out long, eloquent posts so please bare with me.

Three years after leaving H I finally gave a statement to the police. It's took months and months but I found out last week the CPS are prosecuting him. There are 3 charges relating to two incidents.

I'm really happy he's been charge but the reality of testifying in court is terrifying! My anxiety levels are through the roof.

I have no idea how the whole court thing works and I'm scared about the defence tearing me apart. I have a history of depression and I'm worried about them using that against me.

I've heard so many tales of women being treated appalling by the defence lawyer in cases like this. I'm not 100% sure how to cope with it all

Wittynewnameifonly Tue 09-Jun-15 22:21:08

Good news about him being charged. It is a very scary prospect for you I understand. You should get in touch with the court who will have a victim and witness support programme. Victim support may even contact you directly.

I know they can take you round to see the court beforehand and talk to you about how it works. You can also request to give evidence behind a screen so you and him do not see each other.

It won't be a pleasant experience but there is support there for you and it is important that he does not 'get away with it'.

Good luck, take care.

GirlInterupted Tue 09-Jun-15 22:25:10

Thank you. I've been given a name of a witness care worker by the police officer dealing with my case. I might give her a ring and talk through my worries. It's just the idea of being questioned by the defence that's scaring me. Also I get really upset when I have to talk about it so I'm worried about going to pieces when I give evidence.

cleanmyhouse Tue 09-Jun-15 22:36:53

I had to appear in court a few years ago as a victim of a sexual assault by my boss.
My law tutor told me that the defence lawyer would know within the first few minutes if he could "break" me, and if he couldn't he wouldn't try because it would just make me look more credible if he failed. That really stuck with me in court.

I was also worried about being dragged through the mud and having things used against me, but i just kept in my head that all i had to do was tell the truth, and if i did that, i wouldn't have to remember anything because you don't forget the truth.

cleanmyhouse Tue 09-Jun-15 22:38:12

Also, going to pieces is ok, because its a real reaction to trauma. I cracked a few timea giving evidence, but he never broke me.

MyRightFoot Tue 09-Jun-15 22:41:31

i have been through it. it was awful. but i would do it again because my abuser went through worse than me. and he deserved it. and im proud of myself for going through with it. one tip: its not your job to find him guilty. all you need to do is tell the truth.

Wittynewnameifonly Tue 09-Jun-15 22:48:48

Witness care are very good.

My only experience of giving evidence in court was as a third party witness to GBH many years ago. The defence lawyer did ask difficult questions and try to trip me up and to an extent he managed however I was very young, had never been in a court before and also had been a bit naive in just trusting in my memory a long time after the event, by which I mean I hadn't gone back over it in my mind in detail first which was a mistake.

Witness care will help you massively, do use them.

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Wed 10-Jun-15 08:45:35

The only answers you need give the defence are "yes", "no", and "I refer you to my previous statement".

The prosecution will walk you through your evidence first. Until they've finished, the defence can't question you. They may try and get you to speculate along the lines of "Would you say that...?". Don't play along.

Some years back I was a prosecution witness, and I had a pretty good idea that the defence would ask me about a traffic offence I was committing at the time. It came up, I answered "yes" and then shut up. No further questions.

Good luck and courage.

Andro Wed 10-Jun-15 14:41:33

During cross examination:

Take a breath before answering.
Keep your answers short (yes/no/statement of fact)
Disengage emotionally where possible...don't feed the troll barrister.

BeenWondering Wed 10-Jun-15 15:02:05

My law tutor told me that the defence lawyer would know within the first few minutes if he could "break" me, and if he couldn't he wouldn't try because it would just make me look more credible if he failed.

Thank you for posting that cleanmyhouse It is very true.

As an aside I might that this is true in many circumstances in life so I've always adopted the fake-it-till-you-make-it stance. It might sound cliched but think of yourself as having a shield, an armour around you.

I used to volunteer in a court setting supporting people who were going to testify so it's a wise bet to call the support worker you've been assigned and tell them about your anxieties. As a rule they can't coach you. But here's a few things to keep in mind:

Defence are highly trained and skilled orators. Don't engage in speculative questions e.g 'Would you consider or say that xxx?' or 'Are you absolutely sure about xxx or perhaps you've filled in the mental gaps?'

Keep your answers brief and factual. Pause before answering if you feel you're not quite sure of your response or need to compose yourself.

The main thing is not to be bullied or coerced into a new version of events.

I wish you the best because in my experience I have seen some witnesses get eaten alive (sorry, but it's true). And I have seen some witnesses who were anxious but they successfully held court and put themselves across in a measured and controlled way.

You've already been through hell and back r.e. your ex and you've already demonstrated how strong you are by giving an initial statement and now going to court. This is just the last hurdle! And it's clear that you can and will cope with it.

MyRightFoot Wed 10-Jun-15 16:13:40

op, prepare yourself by imagining what are the worst questions they can ask you and rehearse your response. dont expect your ex to play fair, he will lie about you. he may bring up things from your relationship that will be embarassing but your reply should be honest. mine claimed i asked him to slap my face in an masochistic way. it was a lie! remember, his defence are only asking you questions that have come from him. the defence arent the enemy - he is.

wallypops Wed 10-Jun-15 17:18:23

If they ask a tricky or complicated question just say "I don't understand (what you mean)". It obliges them to ask a simplified version of the question, and puts them more on the back foot. Honestly being in court does turn you into a bit of a rabbit in the headlights, so you may well not understand what they are on about.

Gfplux Wed 10-Jun-15 17:21:32

Don't "think" about calling the witness care worker do it immediately.

AWholeLottaNosy Wed 10-Jun-15 17:31:37

There will be someone from the Witness Service ( a charity, not the Witness Care Unit who are part of the police), who will show you around on the day of the trial. ( you may also be able to have a court visit before the day if that would help you). You will be kept in a secure area before the trial and someone can even sit in the courtroom with you. They are well trained and although you can't talk about the details of the case they can support you both practically and emotionally.

As a 'vulnerable witness', you are also entitled to give evidence from behind a screen so that you don't have to look at the defendant. When you contact the Witness Care Unit, check that this will be arranged for you.

It's the Defence counsel's job to 'test the evidence' and the questioning can be robust. Try to stay calm, take your time and remember you can ask for a break if it gets too much.

If Victim Support haven't already contacted you, they can also offer support and are well trained in dealing with victims of domestic violence.

Hope that helps.

AWholeLottaNosy Wed 10-Jun-15 17:34:56

Here's a link with some info about giving evidence.

www.cps.gov.uk/victims_witnesses/going_to_court/giving_evidence.html

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