A witness is a person that has seen or has information about an event or issue that a court is making a decision about. If you have been asked to attend court as a witness and you have a concern about the evidence you will be asked to give, you should consider getting legal advice.
You cannot refuse to be a witness. A person that has been given a subpoena to attend a court to give evidence must comply with the subpoena. A court can issue a warrant for the arrest of a witness who does not attend.
If you have made a statement or affidavit in the case, you should read it a number of times before you go to court. You cannot use your notes while giving evidence unless the judicial officer allows it. Please read the folowing to prepare for court:
- Appear and behave professionally. This applies both on the witness stand and off. This influences the jurors and you never know who is watching you for the other side, while you’re waiting in the hall outside the court.
- Before you are required in court walk into the courtroom and familiarise yourself where the witness stand is located and the path you need to take to get to it. This enables you to walk directly to the stand in a forthright manner and be sworn in.
- Dress professionally. Studies have shown that blue for men and black for women are the most appropriate colours for “looking believable.” Men and women should dress in a conservative fashion. Avoid flashy colours, no Rush Limbaugh ties, and wear minimal jewellery.
- When you are sworn in, look at the jury or magistrate and speak, in a loud, clear voice.
- Once you are on the stand, stand up straight and look at the questioning barrister, when answering make eye contact with the jurors or magistrate.
- Answer all questions clearly, do not nod. If you nod this will cause the court reporter and the judge to tell you to answer audibly and make it look like you’re not sure what you’re doing.
- Keep your hands by your side. Keep them away from your mouth.
- If you need to ask the judge a question, look at the judge and say “Your Honour” (this will depend on the court and state you are giving evidence in) and wait till the judge gives you permission before you ask the question.
- Listen very carefully to the question. Make sure you understand it before you answer.
- If either Barrister objects, stop talking, let the judge rule on the objection and then continue.
- Avoid being combative. Let the Barristers get as nasty as they want. They’re more than likely trying to “bait you.” You stay cool and answer the questions.
- If you make a mistake, admit it. Don’t try to cover it up. Nobody is going to hold it against you that you made a mistake, but they will certainly hold it against you if they think you’re lying.
- Never memorise your statement. Know your facts, but don’t try to say things word for word. You will look rehearsed during your evidence and then will not be able to handle cross-examination, where the questions are out of sequence.
- If the other side asks a question that you think is objectionable, pause before answering and give your barrister a chance to object. If he doesn’t, answer the question. If either barrister’s objects, stop your answer and wait for the judge to tell you to proceed.
- Avoid looking at your barrister when answering questions. This looks like your asking for help and jurors might interpret this as a damaging question, even though your answer makes perfectly good sense.
- Most important of all, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Avoid the temptation to embellish the truth just a bit. It’s not necessary and if you’re caught it makes your whole evidence suspect.
- Presenting professional, clear and concise evidence in court is reasonably easy if you are telling the truth, know your evidence and don’t take any allegation made against you personally. Remember the aim of the defence lawyer is to discredit you and your evidence.
For further information please contact Michael Huggett on [email protected] or 0417 448 507.