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Attending court in the holidays

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by lou1, Nov 22, 2015.

  1. lou1

    lou1 New commenter

    I have some children at my school who social care are looking at removing from their family. The court date has been set, they have pencilled in for 5 days and typically this is in the holidays!

    I will be called as a witness, I won't know which day yet and there is a chance it may not go ahead. I am guessing I will only be there for a few hours on one of the days.

    These questions are all hypothetical because I will go and luckily I hadn't booked any holiday abroad, but I am curious as to

    - do I have to attend?
    - what if I had booked holiday?
    - Am I entitled to time back during term time?

    I will be attending as morally it is the right thing to do, but I would be interested in the above being answered.

    Thank you
  2. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Speak to the social worker, get them to clarify it with the legal team.
  3. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    You're not "entitled" to time back in lieu; however, if you want to broach it with your headteacher (and I caution against any suggestion from you of "entitlement"), s/he might be sympathetic and give you some as a gesture.
  4. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    You are only "guessing" at being required to be there on one of the 5 days. When might you be notified that you would only be needed for part of one of those 5 days? In your shoes I would be making enquiries about the expectations on you for being available and if it were any more than a few hours presence required then I would notify that you aren't available then. It is after all your holiday and your choice whether or not to do anything school related.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  5. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Not if you have had a formal witness summons. You can't refuse to attend to go to court just because it's school holidays. You can't just notify a court that you 'aren't available', answering a formal court summons isn't something optional that you don't have to do if you don't feel like it. It's a legal duty. There are different types of being 'called as a witness', not all are formal witness summons.


    If you have actually committed yourself to be away on holiday (paid for it etc) then courts can be flexible about dates. You'd have to contact the court (or whoever called you as a witness) to discuss it.
  6. lou1

    lou1 New commenter

    Thank you all, at the moment I have just been told by the social worker, nothing official through. I'll speak to her and then see what the next steps are.

    Thank you
  7. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Full of admiration for you and how you are responding to this awful situation for the children.

    Some good points made above, especially about asking the Head if there could be any flexibility in allowing time off in lieu - perhaps at a time of year when there is less going on?

    Hope it all pans out for you.

  8. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    You may find the dates move, I know it did when I was in a similar situation. The first time I attended was eventually during term time, spent the morning there before they decided I wasn't needed. When final dates were set, I again wasn't called in the end. I was told by a friend who is a police officer specialising in child abuse, that it is very very rare for the class teacher to be called and that she had never seen one involved in a case in her 30 years of policing. It was extremely stressful, so make sure you get support from your bosses. If it isn't forthcoming as it wasn't in my case, then use the other people involved such as school nurses, health visitors and social workers to support each other.
  9. ScotSEN

    ScotSEN Senior commenter

    I was called as a witness twice! (can't remember if the letters came in the post or if delivered by the police) First time the HT, Social worker and I spent the morning waiting - got sent for lunch and when we went back were told to go.

    Second time I was called (same case) it was dropped before it went to court.
  10. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Also ask if you can make a written submission rather than attend in person. I can't see you being obliged to attend Don't worry.

    If you went ahead and booked a holiday before any date was set then the court would accept your non-attendance. You're not psychic.
    kent1 likes this.
  11. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    As a witness, the OP will make a 'wroitten submnission' anyway, in the form of her witness statement. Without her being there to be cross-examined, her witness statement has very little value.

    I have resisted replying to this thread but I am aghast that the OP should be whinging about going, in the circumstances - a sentiment which @TheoGriff implied, if I read her correctly.

    Before the court date was scheduled, each party would have been required to state the availability of their witnesses and this would have been taken into account when case management directions were made - including the scheduling of the trial. Then would have been the time to state availaibility.

    Scheduling trials, co-ordinating everything, getting everything in place, booking Counsel - is a huge logistical undertaking and the judge is not going to agree to reschedule it just because the OP doesn't fancy going. And - yes - the OP CAN be compelled to attend by being summonsed as a witness.

    The interests of justice for these children must outweigh everything else.
  12. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    I agree with you GL… Though in a previous role, when I knew a call was looming I did have to make it abundantly clear I would not be able to attend outside of term time due to commitments to my own children. As this was communicated very early on this wasn't an issue.
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    The possibility of being called as a witness does not prevent you from booking a holiday for you and your family.

    Let's say you book the annual holiday and discover subsequently that you are to be called to give evidence on a date when you are to be abroad. This happens all the time!

    You simply write to the court at once and counsel for both sides will be invited to 'agree your evidence'. This is the accepted practice. As I say, it happens all the time. It's quite different to deliberately booking a break after having been summoned. It is not a dereliction of duty on your part to take a holiday in the time allotted for that purpose.

    You would include in your evidence all the detail you felt should be heard. You would have done your duty to the best of your ability.
  14. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    You did!

    .Best wishes

  15. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I was replying based on the 4 day court case as nowhere has it been said that the OP will only have to attend for one day. I think to have to be available over 4 days of a half term break is not ok! I know my GP said she always knew when it was school holidays because so many of her appointments were teachers. How many of us practising teachers spend days of the holidays on family - dental appointments, opticians, hairdressing and the rest?
    midnight_angel likes this.
  16. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I totally agree @HelenREMfan

    The OP has had no official notice. It's pure speculation. Nobody in any other line of business would put their own lives on hold on the off-chance they might be asked to appear in court.

    Completely different proposition if she'd had a summons.

    But the courts get this ALL THE TIME! It's neither unprofessional nor immoral to take a holiday under these circumstances.
    midnight_angel likes this.
  17. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    I am not sure that it is as 'accepted' as you suggest, @grumpydogwoman . The opposing party are not going to agree evidence that disadvantages their case and if the OP's evidence is so bland as to not be contentious, there would be no point calling her in the first place.

    It is also not right to suggest that courts are faced with this sort of thing happening 'all the time'. The Civil Procedure Rules are designed to prevent such things happening, if at all avoidable. That's why there are always so many case management hearings beforehand and a duty on both sides to ensure that the case can be dealt with justly and expeditiously. Parties wasting the court's time by not managing the process efficiently can be - and are - penalised by the court.

    A witness is not going to be required to sit through every day of a hearing. Part of the case management of the trial is to plan with the judge how it will be organised and which witnesses will be required on which days and for how long. This may not be known until quite late in the organisation, however, when Counsel for both sides have had a discussion with the judge about it.

    If the OP knows now that she will not be available on certain days, she should notify the instructing solicitors now. They can always work around a Witness X being unavailable on Tuesdays but Ok on Wednesdays scenario. What the courts will not do (and should not, in the interests of justice and economy) is postpone and jiggle around trial dates to suit individual preferences. No trials would ever take place!
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

  19. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    If you are on holiday, you will know in advance and can let the court know in good time - they usually ask your whereabouts for up to six months in advance. The OP has not indicated that this is the case here - just that she would prefer not to go (although she has said that she will attend).

    I can see the reference to the procurator fiscal, which places the information to Scottish courts. I don't know about those - only how it works in courts in England and Wales. Everything is - as ever - fact dependent. Disappearing off on holiday at the last minute, when court arrangements have been made and known about for months, is not likely to endear the witness to the judge. Potentially (and of course dependent on the facts) a witness could be held in contempt of court.
  20. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    There is a chance it won't go ahead at all. So she says.
    What makes her think that? Pencilled in? So purely provisional. Presumably because half the court staff will be on holiday at that point?

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