Going to Court isn’t easy, so we’re right by your side

Going to court can be challenging and intimidating and may take much longer than you might expect. One of our Court Support Advocates can provide emotional support and advocacy right throughout the court process.

If you need to give evidence in court, your Court Support Advocate will help you prepare for trial, understand the court system, and develop strategies to manage the ‘emotional rollercoaster’. Your advocate will work with you to develop a personal plan to support you.

We can also help with writing a Victim Impact Statement and support you during Sentencing. 

If you’re already seeing a therapist or counsellor, your Advocate will liaise with them to support your healing and preparation for court. If not, they may refer you to on-going therapy or counselling if this would be helpful for you.

To discuss our court services, please call 0800 623 1700 to speak to a Court Support Advocate. You don’t need previous or current counselling to access these services.

Restoring relationships. Restoring your life

HELP also supports people wanting restorative justice.  Project Restore offers survivors an opportunity to directly address the person that harmed them, in a safe environment where you’re guided and supported by specialists. 

It’s a chance to share feelings and opinions truthfully, and to work together to resolve how best to deal with the aftermath, while restoring the dignity and wellbeing of those harmed. 

Click here to learn more about Project Restore.


If you choose to give evidence in court, you can meet with a HELP Court Support Advocate beforehand. Our team will talk with you about your support needs and what preparation might be most helpful for you.

This might include showing a video of the court process, explaining what to expect in court, planning ways to better cope with testifying and addressing any specific concerns you might have.

Our team can also be there as an emotional support when watching the video statement if one has been recorded during the police interview.

They can also work with you to understand how best to prepare yourself to give evidence in court. Staying calm and present while giving evidence will really help. Everyone is different, so it’s important to work out a strategy that’s best for you. 

When answering questions in court, remember:

  • Breathe deeply and slowly 
  • Take your time 
  • If you don’t understand the question, you can say ‘I don’t understand the question’ even if they have to repeat it two or three times. 
  • Don’t guess the answer or say what you think someone wants you to say. Ask for the question to be repeated.
  • If you forgot to say something, you can just tell the Judge.
  • If you need a break at any time, you can ask the Judge and take a break with your support person.
  • If you don’t know, you can say ‘I don’t know’.
  • If you can’t remember, you can say ‘I can’t remember’.
  • Always remember that you are the expert in your experience.

A few people will be involved in the trial, and you’ll have a chance to meet them beforehand:

Officer In Charge
You should know the officer in charge quite well by the time you get to the trial date. It’s important that you feel free to call them if you have any questions. 

Reviewing your statement with the officer in charge is an important part of your preparation. Your HELP Court Support Advocate can attend this meeting to help support you through the process.

Prosecuting Lawyer
This is the lawyer who is arguing the case for you. You’ll meet with the prosecuting lawyer before the trial so that they can answer any questions and help you get ready to be a witness. Having our HELP Court Support Advocate present at these meetings can also be helpful to emotionally support you through this process.

Court Victim Advisor
The court victim advisor works for the court.  They will contact you to give you information about the court date. They are a valuable resource for you to have someone in the court that you know and feel comfortable with.

The advisor will arrange for you to have a look around the court before the trial, provide court education and answer any further questions you may have about what happens on the day.

A prosecution is not a private case – it is a criminal case in which the Crown or State (the government) charges the person with harmful behaviour (referred to as the ‘accused’ or ‘defendant’).​

Your job will be to tell your story by truthfully and thoroughly answering the questions put to you by the prosecuting lawyer and the defence lawyer. This is referred to as ‘giving evidence’ or ‘testifying’.

Your name will not be released to the public or to the media.  You will be covered by ‘name suppression’, which is ordered by the Judge. Sometimes a reporter will attend the trial, but they are prohibited from identifying you in any way.  Some people don’t want their name to be kept private, you can read more about this here.

The courtroom is a ‘closed court’ while you testify, meaning only jury, court personnel, the officer in charge of the case and the offender will be present. While waiting to testify, you can sit in a private witness room with your support people. 

You are normally allowed to have one support person in court with you when you give your evidence, however, you must inform the officer in charge who this person is prior to the trial.

Some things to consider to make the court process a little easier…

Applying for an offender screen or CCTV 
You can ask to have a screen to conceal the offender while you’re giving evidence in the courtroom or ask to give evidence via closed circuit television system (CCTV).  

If you chose this option, you would answer your questions in a room outside of the courtroom via a video link. You’ll only see the Judge and lawyers on screen; you won’t see the defendant.

This is your choice and it’s about what’s best for you. It might be helpful to talk through the options with your Court Support Advocate before you decide how you would like to give evidence. 

Having a support person in court
You are entitled to have a support person in the courtroom, such as a friend, someone in your whanau or your HELP Court Support Advocate.  Your HELP Court Support Advocate, the Police or the crown prosecutor can help you decide who will be most appropriate to have there with you.

The support person’s role is to sit behind you when you’re giving your evidence in court, so it’s important that you feel confident and comfortable with this person.

They cannot interact with you once the judge has arrived in the courtroom. There is a lot of waiting time at court and your support person will be able to be with you during this time and in the breaks from giving evidence.  During this time, they can help you to process your emotions around what is happening in the courtroom.

As the survivor of sexual abuse or assault, you’re considered to be a witness to the crime. It is the job of the prosecuting lawyers to prove to the jury that the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Trials usually take between three and four days, depending on what happened and how long it takes to give all the evidence. Some trials that are more complex with multiple victims or defendants can take longer. 

You don’t need to attend the entire trial – survivors tend to be the first witnesses called to give evidence. Once you’ve finished your part you can leave, and you don’t need to return. The Officer in charge and Court Victim Advisor will let you know the outcome of the trial. 

You can request a meeting with the crown prosecutor following the trial to understand more about the outcome if this would be helpful for you.

Follow-Up Care
Our Court Support team will talk with you after the trial to discuss your on-going needs and we can support you to access counselling or psychotherapy, for continued support and healing. 

Victim Impact Statement
You have the right to provide a Victim Impact Statement to the Judge if the offender has pled guilty or been found guilty in the trial process. This gives the Judge an understanding of how the sexual violence has affected you and will be taken into account when the Judge makes a decision on the sentence the offender will receive at the sentencing hearing.

In this statement, you can include emotional, physical, spiritual, financial and career impacts, as well as the impact it has had on your well being and your family and friends.

We can provide guidance in writing this, as it can feel overwhelming to know where to start. If you would like to read your statement to the Court, the Crown Prosecutor can make an application to the Judge to consider this request.

Many survivors choose not to report to police, but some still want justice. This is often the case for survivors who need to, or want to, continue to have contact with the person who sexually offended against them, but it can be true for anyone. 

HELP supports survivors to participate in a restorative justice process offered by projectrestore.nz which can bring a sense of justice and assist with establishing safe relationships. 

A guided meeting run by specialists
Project Restore seeks to put things right by having the people involved come together to talk about how they have been affected and what needs to happen to resolve issues.

Held in a safe environment and guided and supported by specialists, this offers the survivor a chance to tell their story, how they were harmed and what they need for that harm to be healed, including answers to any questions they might have.

For this process to be effective, the person who caused the harm needs to be able to acknowledge this and to work towards an understanding of their behaviour in order to show remorse and give a full and appropriate apology.

Why consider Project Restore?
Project Restore is an innovative, survivor-driven, restorative justice programme delivered collaboratively with specialists in survivor and offender services and restorative justice services.

Because of the particular dynamics of sexual violence, in-depth preparation with all the relevant people is undertaken to minimise risks of harm, and maximise chances of healing while seeking for justice. For more information, visit projectrestore.nz, call us on 0800 623 1700 or email courtsupport@helpauckland.org.nz.

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