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Who is a vulnerable witness

Depending on the nature of the case, a vulnerable witness may be required to attend court to give evidence. A vulnerable witness may be one of (but not limited to) the following:

  • A child below 18 years of age.
  • An adult with a mental capacity below the age of 18.
  • An elderly victim above 65 years old.
  • A victim or eye-witness of a violence-related crime or sexual offence who may be traumatised by the alleged offence.

In such cases, the court may direct that the vulnerable witness be assigned to one of the following, depending on which court the case is heard:

  • (For State Courts criminal cases) The witness support programme.
  • (For Family Justice Courts (FJC) cases) The vulnerable witness support programme.

These programmes aim to help the vulnerable witness throughout the court hearing process because they may be anxious, afraid or emotionally traumatised when giving evidence, especially if they have experienced or witnessed violence.

Refer to the following to find out more information about the respective programmes.

The witness support programme is conducted by groups of volunteers from the State Courts and Singapore Children‘s Society (SCS).

If you are a vulnerable witness, or a parent or guardian of a vulnerable witness, the investigation officer (IO), prosecutor or defence counsel will provide information about the programme.

Alternatively, you can also speak with them to express your interest if you require a support person.
If you require a support person, the IO, prosecutor or defence counsel will complete and submit the Witness Support Programme Referral Form (DOCX, 48 KB) to the court.

What to expect

A volunteer support person (VSP) will contact you after the Witness Support Programme Referral Form is submitted. VSPs, who are trained volunteers recruited by the Community Justice Centre (CJC) or SCS, will be assigned to you based on your needs.

Note
If the vulnerable witness is below 18 years of age, or has a mental capacity below the age of 18, consent from the parent, guardian or caregiver has to be obtained before a VSP is assigned.

During the court proceedings, the VSP will:

  • Help you manage stress arising from the court proceedings.
  • Provide you with information about court processes and procedures.
  • Familiarise you with the State Courts and the courtroom ahead of the hearing.
  • Sit behind you to give you support when you give evidence in court, with the permission of the court.
  • Provide a calming presence when you are required to attend court.
  • Continue to provide you with emotional support after the hearing.

While VSPs are sensitive to your needs, problems and feelings, they will have to be neutral when interacting with the parties involved in the case. This means they cannot:

  • Provide legal advice.
  • Discuss evidence related to the hearing.
  • Reply on your behalf during the court proceedings.
  • Tell you what to say during the court proceedings.
  • Offer counselling or post-trauma treatment, either before or during the trial.
    • SCS or CJC may refer you to relevant agencies after the hearing concludes, if necessary.

Estimated fees

The witness support programme is free of charge.

For more information

Refer to the

The Witness Support Programme brochure (PDF, 208KB)  for more details.

You can also contact the State Courts Centre for Specialist Services at Statecourts_centre_for_specialist _services@statecourts.gov.sg for enquiries.

The court will link up the volunteer support person (VSP) with the vulnerable witness on the day of the hearing. VSPs are trained volunteers recruited by the Singapore Children‘s Society (SCS) and are assigned based on the vulnerable witness's needs.

What to expect

During the court proceedings, the VSP will:

  • Help the vulnerable witness manage stress arising from the court proceedings.
  • Provide the vulnerable witness with information about court processes and procedures.
  • Familiarise the vulnerable witness with the FJC and the courtroom ahead of the hearing.
  • Sit behind the vulnerable witness to give support when the vulnerable witness gives evidence in court, with the permission of the court.
  • Provide a calming presence when the vulnerable witness is required to attend court.
  • Continue to provide the vulnerable witness with emotional support after the hearing.

While VSPs are sensitive to the vulnerable witness's needs, problems and feelings, they will have to be neutral when interacting with the witness involved in the case. This means they cannot:

  • Provide legal advice.
  • Discuss evidence related to the hearing.
  • Reply on the vulnerable witness's behalf during the court proceedings.
  • Tell the vulnerable witness what to say during the court proceedings.
  • Offer counselling or post-trauma treatment, either before or during the trial.
    • SCS may refer the vulnerable witness to relevant agencies after the hearing concludes, if necessary.

Estimated fees

The vulnerable witness support programme is free of charge.

Resources

Refer to:

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