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A witness' personal account

A witness' personal account

Upset woman with face in hands

I was very fortunate to be able to interview Sarah* about her experience of being called as a witness in the trial for the death of her baby boy. Listening to her share her experience and how she managed to get through the judicial process reminded me of the importance of sharing and talking so that others may take strength in another’s journey.

Sarah came to be involved with Victim Support when her baby boy was murdered. His death was a life changing and harrowing event for Sarah and her family. But her story has a sad twist in that the person she trusted - her now ex-partner - was the person who took the life of her baby boy.

At the beginning of the investigation Sarah experienced judgement from many people. Her own emotional roller-coaster of hell was on display for the public and all the social media critics to judge. Prior to the trial commencing, Sarah had already sought counselling to help her to cope with not just her grief and loss of her son, but also the grief and loss of a relationship. She learnt a variety of strategies that she used to get through and drew strength from her family and friends, “who instigated normalising life.”

When D-day arrived with the commencement of the trial, Sarah recalls feeling overwhelmed by all the people looking at her in court, including the jury, who to Sarah, appeared to be a scary bunch of people. I asked Sarah how she got through the first moments and she calmly states, “in that moment you have to ground yourself to have a sense of calm”.

Sarah had done her research and had used different apps to help her learn new strategies to calm her mind. She shares that throughout this time she wanted to maintain her dignity and not reply to the questions while she was in an emotional state. During the court process she also chose not to attend every day and had members of her family attend on her behalf. She utilised the offer of court education with the Court Victim Advisors so she was able to familiarise herself with the court room and where she would be standing. When she was feeling overwhelmed by what was happening, she would think about it for a period and then put it aside and look towards her future to help her focus and maintain a sense of normality.

Sarah and I hope that this personal account will help others called to be a witness, and that you will be able to learn something from her experience to find strength to get through.

Sarah suggests these top three tips.

• Don’t be rushed to answer, there’s no time limit.

• Focus on the lawyer and what they are asking.

• Request them to rephrase the question if you don't fully understand.

* Sarah's name has been changed to protect her identity.

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