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.
Being called to court
You'll get a notice delivered to you at home 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 of a crime, you'll meet with a victim adviser about 3 weeks before you have to go to court. They'll:
- tell you what will happen on the day
- show you around the courtroom
- give you advice on what to do.
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. Ask the Crown lawyer or your witness adviser.
Going to court
Arrive at court 15 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
- any documents or other items you've been asked to bring, like bills or photographs.
Keep photocopies of your documents at home — it might be several months before you get the originals back.
You might also want to bring something to read or do while you're waiting as you might not be called to give evidence right away.
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. You can't talk to them or touch them, but they can be close by.
Usually, members of the public can come to the trial if they want to. The judge can also:
- make an order that your name and personal information can't be reported in the paper or on the news
- close the court while you give evidence, so the public have to leave.
Giving your evidence
First, you'll be sworn in. You have to swear to tell the truth on a bible, or make an affirmation if you're not religious. After this point, it’s a crime to lie.
If you've recorded a video interview before the trial, you might not have to give your evidence again — but you need to be present to answer any questions.
The Crown lawyer and the defence lawyer will both ask you questions.
The judge is there to keep you from feeling badgered or confused — if you need it, ask for more time or for the question to be repeated.
If you think a question is inappropriate or irrelevant, you can ask the judge if you have to answer. You have to answer if the judge says you do.
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 (eg for lunch or for the day), 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.
If someone tries to convince you to change your story
Tell the Crown lawyer or the Police immediately. It's illegal for anyone to harass or attempt to influence a witness.