If you are a victim of crime or a witness who has provided a statement in relation to a criminal matter, you may be asked, or required, to give evidence at a hearing or in a trial.
There are two types of notices that are provided to witnesses:
The first is a preliminary notice. This notice is to alert you to the fact that a case is about to commence in court. You do not have to attend court on the date listed on the notice. The trial will be listed after this date and we will be in contact to notify you of the court date and arrange to meet with you prior to the trial.
The second is a final notice. If you receive this notice it is essential that you appear at court on the date and time specified. If you do not, it is possible that the judge will order a warrant for your arrest. If there is an urgent reason why you cannot appear, it is important to tell the court and provide any supporting documentation, such as a medical certificate.
It is also possible that you may not receive a notice but simply be contacted by a staff member from the DPP's office to arrange for you to give evidence.
Please do not discuss your evidence with any other potential witness as this may impact on the case.
If you are to be called as a prosecution witness, we will generally contact you to arrange a meeting at the DPP's office prior to the court date. In some limited circumstances, meetings may be held in a location that is more convenient to witnesses. The meeting will give you the opportunity to meet with the prosecutor and members of staff who are dealing with the case. During the meeting we will:
- talk to you about the process of giving evidence and answer any questions you may have about the process generally
- ensure that the information in your statutory declaration is true and correct and obtain any further detail you may be able to provide in relation to the information contained in your statement
- advise when you will be likely to be required to attend court.
On the day
When you arrive at court please tell court staff that you are a witness. You will be shown to a waiting area where you will wait before you give your evidence. You will not be allowed in the court before giving evidence. Delays can occur, so please bring something to read or do while you are waiting.
When it is your turn to give evidence, you will be shown into the court room and directed to the witness box. When you get to the witness box please remain standing. Court staff will ask whether you wish to take an oath or make an affirmation to tell the truth. The oath is a religious promise on the bible or holy book and the affirmation is a non-religious promise to tell the truth. If taking the oath, you will be asked to say "I swear", if taking the affirmation you will be asked to say "I affirm".
The prosecutor will ask you some questions about your evidence, or the information contained in your statement(s). This process is called examination in chief.
Next, the defence lawyer will ask you some questions. This process is called cross-examination.
In some cases, the prosecutor will then ask you some clarifying questions. This process is called re-examination.
It is normal to feel nervous about giving evidence. Please take your time and listen carefully to the questions. If you do not hear a question, please ask for it to be repeated. If you do not understand a question, say so and ask for the question to be asked in a different way. Try to only answer the question that you have been asked and do not go on to give any unnecessary explanation. If you do not know the answer, please say so.
Please speak clearly and slowly. It is important that the court hears and understands your answers to the questions.
If you are feeling very stressed or tired, you can ask the judge or magistrate for a break.
After re-examination, the judge or magistrate will tell you that you are free to leave. You may then leave the court room.
If you wish to speak to us after you have given your evidence, please leave a message for us to contact you. It may be that we cannot respond to your enquiry until after the trial has finished.
The judge or magistrate should always be addressed as "Your Honour".
In the Supreme Court the judge and lawyers will be wearing wigs and gowns.
The court may pay limited expenses for travel, contribution to loss of work income and so on. Please speak to a DPP staff member about this.
In some cases, it may be possible to give your evidence from another room and have a support person sit with you when giving your evidence. Please speak to the prosecutor or witness assistance staff member if you think this would be of assistance to you. This applies particularly to children, victims of sexual assault, victims of serious violent crimes and people with a disability.
If there is any reason that you might find it difficult to understand the questions in court, such as English not being your first language, literacy issues or having a disability, please speak to DPP staff about this so that arrangements can be made to modify the questioning process.
If you have changed, or are about to change, your contact details, it is important that you provide us with your updated details. This will allow us to contact you to discuss any matters arising.