Many of us, have no experience of the courtroom. Courtrooms are worlds of their own, in that they have processes and language that are second nature to those who regularly inhabit this world, although as incomprehensible to those of us who don’t.
For those who are a victim or are a witness giving evidence in a trial, the court can be quite an emotionally distressing experience. For example, the process of a cross-examination, where the opposing lawyer attempts to discredit the witness, can be very intimidating. Lawyers do not care if they intimidate you or come across aggressive; they simply want to find a weakness and create uncertainty for the jury to doubt the validity of the witness’s testimony. Unfortunately, there is no support system offered by the courts to help deal with the rigours of going to court. However, there are external services available. Alegna Solutions has a pre-trial counselling service to help improve self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as prepare victims and witnesses for the experience of court.
Pre-trial counselling is a way of preparing. It covers basic things like the roles of the different people within the court and basic information about legal processes, so you are not walking in blind. Courts can be confusing places although if you go into them with a little knowledge it can be much less daunting. Pre-trial counselling will help make sense of the process and be aware of what is expected of you as a witness, and what to expect as a witness.
Alegna solutions recommend pre-trial counselling especially for people, who are vulnerable, intimidated or who have experienced trauma. In the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing its stance towards pre-trial counselling in the wake of the suicide of Frances Andrade. One week after testifying in a sexual abuse case against her former choirmaster and his wife, Frances Andrade killed herself because she could not cope with the trauma of the trial. Although this is an extreme case, it shows that there is a real need to help counsel victims and witnesses, especially in such cases where there is alleged abuse.
Additionally, another important aspect of pre-trial counselling that is beneficial is that it can help develop coping strategies. If dealing with a negative or positive outcome of a trial, pre-trial counselling informs victims and witnesses of their options and choices that they have to make post-trial. Victims and witnesses should be especially prepared to deal with the feelings of disappointment, grief, or even anger at the perceived misjudgement.
Pre-trial counselling is about making sure victims and witnesses go into the courtroom psychologically prepared for what might happen. Attending court can be an emotionally draining experience for which pre-trial counselling could help you. It’s about preparing yourself so that you know what to expect and having the support to cope with what happens.