Our clients, because of threat or crime against them, may find themselves in Local, District or Supreme Court in many locations, Children’s Court and Family & Federal Courts. All court systems are different, have some consistencies and many differences. Most people are a little intimidated by going to court, facing offenders, giving evidence and understanding the process.
The Victim Support Unit provides clients with The Department of Justice DVD/booklet ‘The Justice Journey’. In addition, staff conduct court preparation by explaining the different roles of court personal, explaining the process of Evidence in Chief and Cross Examination, and provide practical breathing and relaxation techniques that can be used while in the witness box.
The Victim Support Unit staff are not allowed to read client’s police statements and do not coach clients on what to say when giving evidence.
Vacancies exist for calm, confident, personable people who would like to volunteer as a court companion/support person. Vacancies also exist for suitable people wishing to support victims and others in various meetings such as those with lawyers, the DPP, FaCS, Housing etc. Advocacy skills will be taught.
Court support helps victims of crime to feel less isolated during their involvement in the criminal legal system. Court support may include:
- Meet a client before court to enhance feelings of safety and support.
- Assistance to locate the courtroom and facilities.
- Provide emotional support during breaks and in the court environment.
- Provide an empathetic, non-judgemental response and support.
- Explanation of legal terms, phrases and activities at court.
- Assist clients to understand instructions, rights, choices and potential consequences.
- Advocate the client’s needs to the solicitor, DPP, police, or court official if required.
- Support the client’s self-soothing and coping skills.
- Ensure the client is not subjected to any harassment by the defendant or supporters whilst at court.
- Defuse any incidents appropriately, including seeking assistance from Court Officials.
- Debrief after court, and making sure that the client understands what occurred and the outcome.
- Support in any media the client may choose.
- Inform the client about any entitlements to counselling and/or financial support.
- Provide information about post-trial matters, such as Victim Impact Statements, sentencing, Victim’s Register, and the offender’s right to appeal.
- Discuss any safety issues and strategies for the client.
- Follow up with the client a few days after the court date.
VOCAL provides services to the entire Hunter Region with a limited number of staff. Therefore we are dependent upon volunteers for the provision of many of our services, such as court support. If you are interested in training to become a court companion, please complete the below form.