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Will I be harassed if I become a witness?

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If you have witnessed a crime, you probably know that you will need to speak with the police about it, but doing so can be daunting.  After all, what if the criminal knows what you have done and isn’t happy about it?  Could they decide to take revenge for your testimony in court, or even just for answering a few questions at the cop shop?  Although for petty crimes this is really not often the case, the anxiety of being an actual witness to such an event is understandable and if you are wondering how to proceed if you are a witness, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Being a witness in a criminal court case is usually fairly straight-forward.  You will be required to take the stand and answer a few questions about who you are and what you saw, and if the trial is out of town you are entitled to claim compensation for any traveling you need to do and any hotel fees.  Basically, it is your presence on the witness stand that is crucial to the case so once you have agreed to take the stand as a witness it is important that you do so.  If you are uneasy about the experience, you should be aware that the police will make an extra effort to ensure your safety before, during and after the trial so you should not be hassled by the suspect or any of their friends or relatives. 

With good reason, it is against the law for any suspect to harass or threaten witnesses so if this is happening you need to immediately tell the police.  If you are certain that your testimony will be answered with threats then tell the police beforehand and you will have some extra protection throughout the proceedings.  If police are aware that there might be problems due to your testimony, they will not only offer extra protection but they may suggest you stay away from home for the duration of the trial.  You might even like to stay in a hotel while the trial continues just to get some peace of mind and the space to think about everything that is happening.

If the suspect knows you and knows where you live, this can be a great idea so that they are a loss as to where to find you and therefore cannot do any harm or make you nervous before hitting the stand.  The most important thing to remember is to not let any threats or even the prospect of a threat stop you from making a testimony that could mean the difference between prosecution and walking away for a suspect.  If it is important to you that justice is done, you need to step up and realize your role within the criminal law system – everyone has to contribute sometime, so don’t be nervous, take a few deep breaths and don’t let anyone bully you out of doing the right thing. 

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