Victim Support, which Witness Service is a part of, evolved from a group of volunteers so we have always relied on them. The service came about when we realised that noone was giving victims any support through the court process – they may have received some practical information, but no explanation about what to expect, how the courts operate or any support for any emotional distress they might be experiencing.
Our volunteers give support and information to all witnesses coming through the courts. This might be anything from simple practice information, like where the toilets are the nearest place to buy refreshments, if they can leave the witness room, to information about he courts process, what to expect when they give evidence.
Volunteers liaise with Witness Service Staff who in turn liaise with court officials about any particular requirements the witness might need, like if they are hard of hearing.
The volunteers also give emotional support to witnesses, we have access to rooms to give one-to-one support. All the volunteers attend a five day foundation programme and after that support and training in ongoing for them. They sit in on a trial to see what happens, sit in a witness room to see how they interact with other witnesses and court officials. They also shadow experienced volunteers to get an idea of their role. The training takes place in three or four areas in Scotland and is delivered by Victim Support.
I keep in touch with the Volunteer Centre and have some people referred by them – we tend to be looking for new recruits every six months or so. We have a few young people who are volunteers and I’ve recently worked with the Volunteer Centre to make sure they all receive MV Awards for their volunteering. It’s a very easy process.