It is normal to feel apprehensive and nervous about court.
Read through your Affidavit(s) before the trial to refresh /assist with your memory of the offence(s).
Before giving evidence
- Make yourself known to the Sheriff’s Officers (in white) when you arrive.
- Wait quietly in one of the designated Witness Waiting Areas.
- If you can, remain calm while you are waiting.
- Inform the Investigating Officer or relevant staff if you need to go outside the court building for a quick break whilst you wait.
- Don’t ‘hang around’ the very front of the court building during breaks.
- Make sure you know the length of morning, lunch and afternoon breaks and exactly when you are required to return.
- Let relevant staff know if you are becoming anxious or distressed.
The Sheriff’s Officer will come and get you when you are required to enter the court.
If the Judge is already sitting at the bench, bow your head as you enter and leave the court room (this is a sign of respect).
When it is your turn to give evidence, the Sheriff’s Officer will lead you to the witness box and the Judge’s Associate will ask you to state your name and either:
- swear on the Bible or Quran
- give an Affirmation (promise) to tell the truth.
Then you can sit down.
If you are giving evidence from a separate room via CCTV, the Sheriff’s Officer will set up the relevant technology and let you know when the court is ready to begin.
Examination in Chief and Cross Examination
The Prosecutor from the ODPP will ask you questions first - this is called the 'Examination in Chief'.
These questions will help you explain the details of what happened.
Remember, Jury members do not know you and do not receive a copy of your Affidavit, so it is up to you to tell them what happened.
After the ODPP Prosecutor, the Defence Lawyer will ask you questions about your evidence - this is called 'Cross Examination'.
When you are under Cross Examination, the DPP Prosecutor is not allowed to speak with you during breaks. This is for legal reasons - they are not ignoring you.
Sometimes after Cross Examination the ODPP Prosecutor may ask you a few more questions. This is called 'Re-Examination'.
When giving evidence in court room remember to:
- Tell the truth
- Speak clearly and take your time (try not to speak too softly or quickly)
- Speak to the Judge if they ask you a question
- Refer to the Judge as “Your Honour"
- Wait to be asked a question before you speak or respond
- Avoid using gestures only in your responses (i.e. nodding, shrugging, pointing, etc)
- Only answer the questions you have been asked
- Say so if you do not understand a question asked of you
- Say so if you do not know (or can’t remember) the answer to a question
- State the facts, giving your opinion only when asked.
Also be reminded of the following:
- Turn off your mobile phone whilst in the court room
- Do not chew gum, eat or drink (apart from the water provided) whilst in the court room
- Ask if you need some more water
- Ask for a break if you are becoming tired or require a toilet break
- Do not swear or use obscene language
- Do not write anything down unless you have been given permission to do so
- Remain calm during your evidence even if you are being asked uncomfortable or difficult questions
- Do not leave the court room unless the Judge has given you permission to do so
- Do not discuss your evidence with anyone during the breaks.
After giving evidence
After you have given your evidence and you have been dismissed, you are free to leave the court building.
Have a plan to leave the court premises promptly. It is not advisable to ‘hang around’ the court building.
Do not speak to anyone else involved in the trial while it is in progress. This includes:
- other witnesses
- the accused
- defence lawyer
This will be viewed unfavourably by the court and may lead to a mistrial (which means the trial will have to start over).