Am I a witness?

How does it affect the witness?

WITNESSES may be anxious and afraid to go to Court to give evidence.

Some young people who have gone through this experience felt / had:

  • trembling hands;
  • heart beating faster than usual;
  • sweating more than usual;
  • stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, vomiting;
  • less appetite;
  • difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares;
  • less desire to be with friends;
  • frequent thoughts about what might happen;
  • difficulty concentrating in classes.


These reactions, or others that may come up, are our bodied natural reactions. They happen when you are confronted with a new or uncertain experience, quite different from those you are used to.

Many of these reactions can be related to the challenges you will face in Court:

  • the formality of the Court, a new environment with which you aren’t used to, with people who talk and dress in a distinct manner;
  • speaking in public;
  • fear that others (e.g., friends, teachers, neighbors) became aware that you were called to give evidence in Court;
  • discomfort because of having to repeat everything that you had told before (e.g., what you had told to the police officer);
  • being faced  with the presence of the accused person (especially if the accused is someone close) or the witnesses giving evidence to support the accused;
  • afraid that the accused or his/her witnesses will try and upset or harm you;
  • afraid of saying something that harms the accused person (particularly when he/she is someone we know – e.g., a relative or a friend);
  • worrying that you will not be able to understand or answer the questions (especially the weird or difficult ones);
  • afraid of answering embarrassing questions (when you are in Court to say what you know about a case of sexual violence, for example);
  • afraid of forgetting details about what happened;
  • afraid that the Judge will not believe  what you are saying.


These reactions can be controlled if you understand what will happen in Court, who will be there, what will be your specific role, what you should do and what measures exists in the Law to protect your privacy and security.
In About going to court and What support can I get? you will find more information about this.


  • The Court is a safe place, it has a security system and police officers that keep law and order on the premises and protect the people there.
  • There are laws to protect the safety, privacy and identity of young people who are asked to be witnesses in Court. There are even laws which entitle young people to special measures to support them giving evidence in Court.
  • The Judge, the Procurator Fiscal and the lawyers know the law well and are experienced people who have been through many trials similar to the one you are going to attend. The professionals working in a Court do their best to ensure the safety and privacy of all witnesses. Their aim in the Trial is to find out the truth about what happened. They are not there to accuse or blame the witnesses.
  • The accused NEVER asks you questions during the trial. The only people who can ask you questions are the Judge and lawyers.
  • If you are under 16 years of age you are entitled to special measures to help you give your evidence. For more information about these and other special measures see What support can I get?.
  • The witnesses are part of the Trial and have an important role to fulfil: to tell what they remember about what happened.
  • What you say in Court is important to help the Judge or jury take the right decision in relation to the case, but there are other pieces of evidence that are also taken into account to reach the decision. Your testimony is only one of those pieces of evidence.
  • The people who decides if the accused is guilty or not of a particular crime are the Judges (or the Jury). You are not responsible for the decision taken by the Court.