Court Skills Training

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Giving evidence from the witness box in Family or any court can be a very lonely place, and can be stressful for everyone including the most experienced social worker and police officer. As a professional who works with children you are often the first to spot the signs and symptoms of child abuse and therefore what you have seen, heard etc. may be evidence and you may be required to give evidence at court. But don’t panic Warrington Safeguarding Children Board delivers Court Skills Training for all those practitioners who work with children and may have to give evidence in court, especially the Family Court. The training is for half a day and is run on behalf of WSCB by Warrington Borough Council’s Legal Services Department.

Here are some top tips which we cover on the course:

  • Preparation is the Key – know your own statement, read and prepare.
  • Wear smart comfortable clothing.
  • Eat something before entering court, to prevent feeling faint or hungry.
  • When you go to the witness box – try to stay calm. Don’t sit down until you are asked to or given a choice to do so. Often there is better voice projection if you remain standing.
  • Point your toes towards the Judge while standing (or sitting) as this will automatically align your body towards the judge.
  • Look only at the advocate to hear the question, turn and address the Judge with your answer.
  • Think before you answer, address the judge or magistrates appropriately (your honour/your worship) but don’t feel you have to put this in every sentence!
  • Speak slowly and clearly – you need to be heard at the back of the court as well as by the judge.
  • The Judge takes notes of relevant information while you are giving evidence, watch the pen and wait for him/her to finish writing.
  • From where the Judge is sitting he or she can see everything from the bench – Facial expressions and reactions to the evidence can be seen.
  • Understand the question asked and answer the Judge looking at the judge not the person asking the question – If you do not understand the question ask for it to be repeated.
  • Remember the listing of hearings and time frame for calling witnesses is not an exact science and you could be waiting at court for some time before you are needed to give evidence. Take something with you to occupy your time and keep yourself hydrated.