Your role as a witness

You have been called as a witness because you have important knowledge about a case.

You are making a necessary and valuable contribution to our system of justice by appearing as a witness in court. Justice cannot be done without witnesses providing evidence for the court to act upon.

This information will answer some of the questions you might have about being a witness and about support services available to you.

Preparing for court

Think about the event or events you will be giving evidence about. What happened first? What happened next? Try to remember details like dates, times, descriptions, actions and exact words used. Do not discuss your evidence with other witnesses.

Read the statement you gave to police. If you do not have a copy of your statement, you can ask the police officer involved in the case or the ODPP lawyer for a copy.

The police or the ODPP lawyer will let you know what you need to bring to court. If you have any questions, please ask the police officer, the ODPP lawyer or the Witness Assistance Officer.

The day of court

The police or the ODPP lawyer may have arranged for you to meet at a particular location. If no arrangements have been made, when you get to court, go to the court office or inquiry counter and ask where you should wait.

Do not discuss your evidence with other witnesses.

Usually the ODPP lawyer will see you before you are called to give your evidence. If you have not seen the ODPP lawyer or the police officer involved in the case by 10am, ask at the Sheriff's Office, the court office or the inquiry counter.

Every effort will be made to ensure that you are not inconvenienced more than is necessary, however, be prepared to wait. We appreciate that your time is valuable and that a long wait can be inconvenient, but delays often occur.

If you require special care or feel threatened in any way, tell the police officer or the ODPP lawyer.

Courts usually sit from 10am to 4pm, with a break of approximately 15 to 30 minutes for morning tea and between 1pm and 2pm for lunch.

In the courtroom

Someone will call you when it is your turn to give evidence. You will then be shown to the witness box in the courtroom.

The court officer will ask you before you go into court if you would like to take an oath on a religious book or take an affirmation to tell the truth. The court officer will read out the oath or affirmation in court.

You will be asked to say your name and occupation. If you do not wish to state your address in public, tell the ODPP lawyer beforehand, otherwise you may also be asked to give your address.

The Crown Prosecutor or ODPP lawyer will ask you questions about what happened. The accused's lawyer will then "cross examine" you by asking you additional questions. The Judge or Magistrate may also ask you questions about your evidence.

Magistrates sit in the Local Court, Judges sit in the District and Supreme Courts and all are addressed as "Your Honour".