Going to court as a witness
If you're asked to give evidence in court, you’ll have to swear to tell the truth and answer any questions the judge says you have to answer.
If you need to go to court, check with the Ministry of Justice first.
For civil cases, they decide on claims of up to $200,000.
In criminal cases they cover minor offences, but can also conduct trials for some serious offences, such as rape and aggravated robbery.
Being called to court
You’ll get a letter called a summons telling you when you need to be in court.
You can be:
- asked to give evidence
- summoned to appear in court (this is called a subpoena).
If you’re summoned to appear, you have to show up. If you don’t, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest or charge you with contempt of court.
If you were the victim
If you were the victim of a crime, a court victim advisor will contact you and offer to assist you through the court process. They’ll:
- tell you what will happen on the day
- show you around the courtroom
- give you advice on what to do.
If you need to take time off work
Your employer has to give you time off work to act as a witness, but they can choose whether or not to pay you for the time you’re away.
You won’t get paid for being a witness, but you might be able to claim expenses from the court. Speak to the officer in charge about how to claim these expenses.
Going to court
Arrive at court 30 minutes before the time you’ve been asked to appear. There’s no dress code but you should wear something neat and tidy.
You should take:
- your court summons, if you have one
- something to read or do while you’re waiting.
Facing the accused if you were the victim of the crime
Talk to the Crown lawyer or your victim adviser before the trial to find out if the judge will let you:
- give evidence in a different room by closed-circuit TV
- have a screen between you and the accused, so you don’t have to look at them
- have a support person sit with you while you give evidence.
Giving your evidence
Before you give evidence you have to take an oath, or make an affirmation if you're not religious, that you will tell the truth. After this point, it’s a crime to lie.
The prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer will both ask you questions. The judge may also ask you questions.
Talking about the case
You can’t talk about what you’ve said at court until the trial is over. If the judge calls a break, for example for lunch, you aren’t allowed to speak to anyone about the case during the break.
If it’s a jury trial, you’re not allowed to speak to the jury at any time.
Tell the Crown lawyer or the Police immediately if anyone tries to talk to you about the case, or to change your story.