This website is no longer being updated. Please go to GOV.SCOT

Being a witness: Helping people with learning disabilities who go to court: A guide for carers


2. Helping someone with a learning disability to prepare

Being a witness can be difficult and stressful for anyone. People rarely know much about what happens in a court. Anyone can feel intimidated and anxious about being questioned in the formal and unfamiliar setting of a court.

It may be more stressful for people with learning disabilities and other vulnerable people. They may need clearer information or more emotional or practical assistance.

If the person you care for is asked to be a witness, there is a lot you can do to help them prepare for being a witness and going to court.

If the witness is a member of your family or a friend it can be very upsetting for you too. You will want to do as much as you can to reduce their fears and worries. There is a lot you can do but you will not be able to do everything for the person.

preparing to be a witness image

They will still need to talk to lawyers and give their evidence by answering questions. They are the witness and it is important that they tell the court what they know in their own words.

If you help the person you care for to understand what it means to be a witness they will be more able to tell the court what they know.

You must take care not to interfere with a witness's memory of events or discuss their evidence. People with learning disabilities can be more open to influence and pressure. They will often look for the right thing to say and so it is really important that you do not talk to them about their actual evidence.

You must not at any time:

  • Discuss the evidence that the person will give
  • Coach them in what to say
  • Help them rehearse what to say
  • Show approval or disapproval about what they might say.