The Student Experience:
I completed a yearlong work placement with the Witness Service (Citizens Advice) at Wood Green Crown Court. Witness Service is a charity that provides practical help, emotional support and information to witnesses. I became a trained volunteer by undergoing distance learning, 3 days of accredited, formal training and shadowing various staff.
My role within the service was to provide practical support to witnesses of crime, whilst explaining about the criminal justice system; I also had to communicate with other members of staff such as the Crown Prosecution Service, court staff, support workers and the police to help the trials to run smoothly. I was also involved in referring witnesses and victims to agencies and general administrative work, such as uploading case summary sheets and inputting witness experience surveys.
I found it really easy as the Employability Service helped a lot. We were given a list of available placements and we followed the application process. Employability have been so helpful and I will definitely continue to use them in my final year.
Besides really enjoying the placement, it was something different in an area I would never have considered. I never thought I’d consider it because I knew nothing about law at all! However, I may now consider the different job roles within the sector.
Communicating with all kinds of people, who I never thought I would ever come into contact with (e.g., police officers, barristers and judges).
A degree these days everyone has, but experience they do not, so it seemed essential.
1. Why does Citizens Advice Witness Service offer student work placements?
Citizens Advice Witness Service offers free, independent support for both prosecution and defense witnesses. Our service is delivered by trained volunteers who provide practical information and emotional support; helping witnesses to navigate the court system and feel more confident giving their evidence. In return for offering these work placements, the Witness Service gains a dedicated team member helping us to support more witnesses to give their best evidence.
2. What do students get out of a placement with the organisation?
Placements provide students with an opportunity to build their experience and knowledge of the criminal justice system. The experience of working in the court environment offers them an insight into the Criminal Justice System and victim and witness journey. Placements can be particularly helpful for criminology and psychology students who haven’t yet chosen their specialism.
3. Could you see Lubna develop during her time with you?
When Lubna started her placement she was a shy girl with limited knowledge of the Criminal Justice System and no experience of supporting witnesses. Lubna has flourished in her role and supported lots of witnesses, some of whom were victims of very serious crimes. Lubna can confidently liaise with partner agencies on behalf of witnesses and on one occasion, gave a tour of the Witness Service area to a Judge who was new to Wood Green Crown Court. Lubna also mentored 4 new volunteers during this time.
4. Do you feel that the placement has helped improve her employment prospects?
Lubna has gained experience of working in an office and court environment. Lubna has supported not only victims and witnesses but also new volunteers and acted as their mentor. Lubna planned and prioritized work to meet all of her deadlines. After completing her placement, Lubna wanted to carry on as a volunteer for 1 day a week. We are delighted as she has become an integral member of the team.
In addition to this Lubna has taken up a 1 month role as a temporary relief worker to cover a staff member who is off work. I offered Lubna this temporary role as I have confidence in her experience and abilities.
5. Will you offer another placement in the future?
Yes, we have already advertised new opportunities for academic year 2017-18.