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What is witness support?

to kvinner som sitter sammen ved et bord

Being subjected to or witnessing a criminal act, such as an act of violence or a sexual assault, can be a terrifying ordeal. If you have to testify afterwards to what has happened, you may find it distressing and difficult. In such situations, the witness support service provides counselling and reassuring support and advice.

You can talk to the witness supporter both before and after giving a deposition. A witness supporter can also accompany you when you give evidence in court. The witness supporter is there to provide assistance and reassurance in an unfamiliar and difficult situation, and to help you to concentrate on what you have to say in court.

The witness supporter

  • informs you of what will happen in the courtroom
  • explains what roles the various officials and other individuals in the courtroom have and where they are seated
  • advises/supports you and explains witness conduct before the court
  • must not be involved in your case or advise you on what to say

The witness supporter’s assignment ends when you leave the courthouse after giving evidence. You will be sent information about the witness support service when you are called as a witness. In addition, witness supporters actively make contact with witnesses when the witnesses arrive at the court. On request, a witness supporter can give you a guided tour of the courtroom before you appear in court as a witness.

Witness support is provided in both criminal and in civil court cases. Unfortunately, some district courts are unable to offer witness support. On request, the court or prosecutor will be able to provide you with the information you need.

View a list of courts offering witness support

In Norway, the witness support service is based on volunteerism. This means that witness supporters come from differing backgrounds and are not paid for their services. They are neutral and have no connection with the parties. They must therefore not be employed by the courts, the police or the correctional service, but may have worked for any of these in the past. A witness supporter must also not serve the courts in any other capacity (as a lay judge, for example).

The witness supporter has a duty of confidentiality concerning anything he or she may become aware of by providing support. The duty of confidentiality applies both to your identity and that of anyone else involved, and to any information about the case itself.

The witness supporters speak Norwegian, and some speak English as well. Contact your court and ask which languages they provide if you are in need of an English-speaking witness supporter, or any other language.

Responsibility for the recruitment, training and accreditation of witness support volunteers rests generally with the Norwegian Red Cross. The Norwegian Courts Administration has overall responsibility for the witness support service and assists, jointly with the Norwegian Red Cross, in quality-assuring and promoting a unified and standardised witness support service.

Contact information

Learn more about witness support at www.domstol.no

Learn more about witness support on the Norwegian Red Cross website

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