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Witnesses

Witnesses play an important role in the justice system by giving information in court about what they saw or heard. This is called giving evidence. 

See the safety and security page for information about how you will be protected at court.

If you need to give evidence, you will receive a document issued by the court containing information about the: 

  • the person who wants you to give evidence 
  • court case 
  • court location
  • type of court case
  • time and date, you need to go to court 

If you are unable to go to court, tell the person who wants you to give evidence as soon as possible.

Before going to court

If you are worried about giving evidence, you should consider getting legal advice and/or accessing specialist support services. See the find support section for more information.

You should tell the person who wants you to give evidence if you:

  • have a preferred language other than English and need an interpreter
  • need assistance with reading
  • have vision impairment 
  • have concerns about your safety
  • have any health issues that affect your mobility.

The person who asks you to come to court should arrange an interpreter. If you need an interpreter let the person know as soon as possible. See the interpreters page for more information.

Coming to court

We recommend you arrive at least 30 minutes before your court time. Bring the and any documents relevant to the case. This may include police statements, photos, contracts, victim impact statement or any other relevant information.

The court is a formal environment, so please dress appropriately.

To keep the court safe, everyone goes through a security screening. This is to stop dangerous items being brought into court. See the safety and security page for more information.

Straight after the security screening, go to the courts counter – called the registry - and tell the you have arrived.

The registrar can provide you with information including: 

  • finding your way to the right courtroom
  • helping link you with the lawyer, police or person that asked you to give evidence
  • directing you to other court or support services.

On the day you may have to wait a while before giving evidence, so it is a good idea to bring something to help pass the time. You can also have somebody wait with you so you’re not alone.

If you need to leave the building, be aware the security screening on re-entry may take some time. This may delay the case you are giving evidence in.

Take a seat in the courtroom and please do not talk - unless you are giving evidence.

Once inside the courtroom, do not:

  • eat, drink or chew gum
  • have your mobile phone switched on
  • use electronic devices
  • wear a hat or a pair of sunglasses.

The bench clerk will let you know when it is time to give evidence and direct you to the witness box. You may be required to give your evidence under .

If you need to address the during your hearing, you should refer to them to them as sir, madam or Your Honour.

Taking an oath or

Before you give evidence, you must promise to tell the truth. You can choose to make a religious promise ¬– an oath – or a non-religious promise – an affirmation. 

If you are taking an oath, the bench clerk will ask you to stand in the witness box and pick up a bible – or other holy book –and repeat the words:

“I swear by almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

If you are taking an affirmation the bench clerk will ask you to stand in the witness box and repeat the words:

“I (your name) do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Giving evidence

The lawyer for the person who has identified you as a witness will ask you questions first.

Then the lawyer for the other side will ask their questions. This is called the cross-examination.

The first lawyer can question you again once the other side has asked their questions. This is called ‘re-examination. 

You can ask for more time to answer a question or for a question to be repeated.

Here are some useful tips when giving evidence. 

  • Listen to the question carefully. 
  • Speak clearly and a bit louder than usual so everyone in the court can hear you.
  • Seek clarification before answering any question if you don’t understand. 
  • Try not to leave any details out.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is ok to say that you don’t know.
  • If you can’t remember something, it is ok to say you don’t remember.
  • If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to tell the judicial officer.

After court

You can’t talk to anyone about what you've said about your evidence until the case is over.

Tell the lawyer for the person who’s called you as a witness, or the police if someone approaches you or tries to bully you into changing your evidence. It's illegal for anyone to harass or try to influence you.

See the documents and recordings page for information about accessing audio recordings and court documents.  

Resources

Q. What happens if I don’t go to court?

A.

If you don’t go to court, you may cause a delay in the hearing. In a criminal matter, a warrant for your arrest may be issued. 

Q. What do I do if I only need to file a document in a civil matter?

A.

If you have received a subpoena for the production of documents, you should deliver those documents to the Magistrates’ Court location named on the subpoena by the date specified on the subpoena.

Q. What should I take to court?

A.

You should talk to the person that asked you to come to court about what to bring. If you must bring documents, keep photocopies at home as you might not get the originals back.

Last updated on 13 Dec 2018