To be found guilty it must be proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. The judge or jury have to be completely sure that the crime happened.
The person who is trying to show that a crime has happened is called the prosecutor.
At the start of the trial the prosecutor will tell the jury why they think a crime has happened. They will ask their witnesses to come and answer questions.
Witnesses are people who are asked to come and give evidence about your case. Before anyone gives their evidence they have to promise to tell the truth.
The prosecutor will ask you questions about what you said in your statement about the crime.
The person who has been accused of a crime will have a lawyer to defend them (defence).
It is their job to prove that a crime did not happen. This person will also ask you questions about what you say happened.
This is called cross-examination. After this, the prosecution may ask you some more questions.
The judge can also ask questions any time. This is to help them understand what happened.
The defence will then ask their witnesses to come and answer questions. The prosecution will then cross-exam them.
After listening to all the evidence, the judge (in a magistrate’s court) or jury (in a crown court) will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
If the defendant is found not guilty it means the jury are not completely certain that the crime has happened. The defendant will be acquitted. This means they are free to go.
Remember this does not mean that a crime did not happen.
It means that the jury do not think it has been proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that a crime happened.
If the defendant is found guilty it means the jury are certain that a crime has happened. The judge will decide what will happen to that person (the defendant). This is called sentencing.
The prosecutor will explain the sentencing to you.
Before the judge decides on the sentence you might want to tell them about how the crime affected you. For example if it caused you physical or emotional harm.
This is called a victim personal statement. It might help the judge decide on what sentence to give the person.
You do not have to give a victim personal statement if you do not want to.
The judge will choose one of the following punishments for the defendant:
This means they have to pay a sum of money.
This means they have to follow rules for a set time. For example not going to certain places or not drinking alcohol.
This means they will have to do volunteer work in the community.
This means they will go to jail.
When the trial is over you may still want support. You can talk to the police investigating officer or the PPS if you have any questions about your case.
You can also contact Victim Support, or any of the other organisations listed at the back of this booklet.