A family member in court watching a loved one sentenced to custody may feel isolated, helpless and in the dark as to what to do next. Our volunteers are based in courts and provide support in a number of ways.

Pact provides highly trained Court volunteers in London and North Wales, who can provide useful practical information such as:

  • Which prison the defendant is likely to have gone to and how to contact the prison
  • How sentences are calculated and what some of the terminology used in courts means.
  • How to book a visit or send in property
  • What services are available at the prison for families, and who to contact
  • How to support children who may have witnessed the arrest, and whose parent or sibling has been taken away to prison
  • How to get support in the community to cope with the experience of becoming a ‘prisoner’s family’

Pact's Court Volunteers provide emotional support to family members throughout the court process, taking time to talk to them before their loved one appears in court, sitting with them through the hearing, trial or sentence, and supporting them afterwards.

Crucially Pact’s court service acts as a gateway to other Pact services that could very be supportive and helpful for families such as the Befriending Service, Peer Support Group, Helpline, Community Family Support, Mentoring Services and our Family Engagement Service. A defendant’s family having access to these services helps enable family links to be maintained should a loved one be sentenced to custody, which is proven to reduce the risk of a prisoner self-harming, of suicide, and  violence, and improve outcomes for both the family and prisoner.

Pact’s court volunteers are recruited and vetted by Pact. They are highly trained and supervised by our Court Volunteer Coordinator and work closely with court staff. Each day they are given a list of cases that will be heard in the court and they are able to sensitively approach families of defendants to offer support on the day of the hearing, trial or sentence.

Families may also call Pact Services on 0808 808 3444 and request that a volunteer attends court with them on a particular day, and this can be arranged by the Court Volunteer Coordinator.

Following on from the support provided in court, volunteers then make referrals to other Pact Services to ensure service users have access to as much support as possible throughout the sentence of their loved one  Voluntary referrals can also be made to a range of other services, including Troubled Families teams.

Safeguarding Children when Sentencing Mothers

Below is a helpful and informative film created by Dr Shona Minson, a former Barrister and current Criminologist, which is designed to help primary carers prepare for sentencing hearings. It outlines the law and provides a checklist of things parents should tell the sentencer about their children.