Witnesses or victims of crime will be kept informed of court dates and the legal process by the Bermuda Witness Care Unit.
You will be provided with:
- Dates of upcoming trials and updates on any changes to these dates;
- Court visits to familiarize yourself with the court, if needed;
- Reassurance on what will happen in court and what will be expected;
- Referrals to organizations that can provide counselling;
- Copies of your statements;
- Support both before and after the trial is complete, if required.
If you are the victim of a crime, the Crown Counsel will present your case against a defendant at the criminal trial.
Duties of the Crown Counsel
The Crown Counsel will be the Prosecutor in your case, but they are not your personal lawyer. The Crown Counsel is there as a representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions and to present the evidence based on the complaint to the police.
Prosecutors are assigned cases based on their experience and their availability to prosecute on the relevant date. As a general rule, you cannot choose your Crown Counsel. If you have a concern about a particular Prosecutor, this should be brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Witness Care Unit.
Before you go to court, you will meet with the Prosecutor for a pre-trial interview.
The purpose of the pre-trial interview is to:
- introduce yourselves;
- review the witness’ statement and clarify anything that may be unclear from the information already on file;
- ask any questions about going to court, giving evidence, or any other procedural concerns.
Sentences and charges
Every crime is different. The legislation provides guidance as to what charges should be brought against a defendant. The Prosecutor’s decisions on charges are based on the strength of the evidence. The final decision on which offences will be prosecuted lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
During the sentencing phase, your feelings are recorded in a victim impact statement which is provided to the Court. This statement details how the crime has affected you physically, emotionally and financially. As the victim of a crime, you are entitled to express your concerns about the crime and the effect that it has had on your life.
The Prosecutor may make recommendations on the sentence type (community service, fine, prison) or range (time period). They can decide to accept a plea from the defendant for a less serious charge after a full review of the evidence. They can discuss their proposed course of action with you, but they are not required to do so.
The Court has the final decision on the sentence, and passes sentences accordingly.
Court case confidentiality
The information that will be released varies depending on the identity of the caller and the purpose of the call.
Callers who are victims or witnesses for the Crown can call the Department of Public Prosecutions (1 441 296-1277) to find out the trial date, or to discuss their evidence with a Crown Counsel.
If a defendant has a question about their trial date, a call can be made to the Court Liaison Unit (1 441 295-0011) or the Magistrates’ Court (1 441 295-5151).
No other information is disclosed over the telephone.
Witnesses of a crime
The circumstances of every crime are different. You will be informed if you are required to give evidence in court. There are legal reasons that require you to attend Court and provisions which may allow a statement to be read in Court if you are unable to attend.
If you are required to give evidence, it is important that you go to court and give evidence of what you saw, heard or did. The court must give consideration to all of the evidence given by all of the witnesses.
All witnesses must give their evidence in open court. Open court means in front of the defendant and possibly members of the public. It is the right of the defendant to hear and see who is giving evidence against them so that they can defend themselves or answer to the things that are being said against them.
However, in sensitive matters or matters where children are involved, the use of screens or other means may be allowed.
Any evidence given in court is either made under oath (sworn on the Bible), or under affirmation. An affirmation is a promise which binds your conscious to tell the truth when giving evidence.