Witnesses play an important role in our court system and can be called by both prosecuting and defence counsels to testify.
When the accused person pleads not guilty and there is to be a trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will write to all witnesses before the trial date and will provide an information pamphlet about the trial process.
When the matter goes to trial you may be required to give evidence as a witness. If you are a witness, you should receive either a summons to give evidence at the hearing or a subpoena if you are called to the District or Supreme Court.
If you have any concerns about your personal safety at court or about giving evidence in front of the defendant, discuss this with the prosecutor.
The prosecutor may be able to apply to the court to have you declared a vulnerable witness and you may be able to give evidence, usually via closed-circuit television, without facing the accused directly.
Being called to give evidence in court can be daunting. Support is available if you have to give evidence, or simply wish to observe the court case. The Victim Support Service can provide someone to help you through your court experience.
The support person, usually a volunteer, can be there when you arrive, sit with you while you are waiting to be called into the court, and sit in on the proceedings while you are giving your evidence.
If you would like to arrange court support and court orientation, contact the Victim Support Service.
If the prosecution has called you as a witness for the prosecution, usually the prosecutor will contact you to arrange a meeting before the trial to discuss your evidence and clarify and discuss any concerns you have about the trial.
If you are not required as a witness, you may still like to meet the prosecutor and discuss any issues of concern before the trial. Contact the DPP to discuss your request.
Generally the courtroom is open to the public unless, in rare cases, the judge will order it to be closed. The public gallery is located at the rear of most courts.
Family members can sit in the public gallery throughout the trial. If you are required to be a witness, you will have to wait outside the courtroom until you have given evidence, then you may sit in the public gallery.
The Victim Support and Child Witness Service has a video and a booklet called Taking the Stand to explain what a witness will be asked to do in court. If you have questions or need more information, call the Victim Support and Child Witness Service.
Last updated: 18-Feb-2013
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