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Arriving in court

On the day you have to attend court, you should:

You should bring:

  • Your identification documents such as your identity card (NRIC) or passport.
  • Your subpoena and the documents mentioned in it (if applicable).
  • A jacket or a sweater, as you may feel cold in the courtroom.
  • Drinking water in a bottle or a tumbler as you may be called to give evidence for a period of time.
Some court sessions may be conducted virtually. The court will inform you if you do not need to attend court in person.

Find out more about virtual court sessions.

Who will be present in court

Refer to the following to find out about the parties you may encounter when you attend court, depending on the nature of your case:

What to do at the hearing

You are expected to observe court etiquette at each stage of the court proceedings.

Witnesses will usually wait outside the courtroom or in a special room called a witness room. You may have to wait a while before it is your turn to give evidence. This may be because the witness before you is taking longer than expected to give evidence.

You should...

You should not...

Wait patiently until you are brought into the courtroom to give evidence.

Discuss anything you said or heard in court with other witnesses.

Remain silent and behave decently at all times.

Post any details about the case on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

When it is your turn, the party who wishes to call you will let you know. You will then be brought into the courtroom and shown to the witness box.

When you enter the witness box, you will be required to raise your right hand and take an oath or affirmation. This is a promise that you are telling the truth.

If you are a Christian (either Protestant or Catholic), taking the oath requires you to hold the Bible while swearing to tell the truth. For all other religions, you will make an affirmation instead.

There are 3 stages in giving evidence from the witness box.

Sequence of stages

What to expect

1. Examination-in-chief

  • The party who subpoenaed you will ask you to introduce yourself to the court with your full name, age and occupation.
  • They will ask open-ended questions for you to tell the court what you know about the case in your own words.
  • They may refer to various documents, and ask you questions about these documents.

2. Cross-examination

  • The other party may ask you more direct, closed questions to challenge what you have said during the examination-in-chief.
    • "Do you agree or disagree?" is an example of the type of question that may be asked.
    • You should answer the questions directly and if necessary, you can explain but avoid going off-topic.
  • They may also refer to documents, and ask you questions about these documents.

3. Re-examination

The party who asked you questions in examination-in-chief may ask you more questions to clarify the answers given during cross-examination.

When answering questions

You must answer questions truthfully. Regardless of who asks the questions, you should direct all your answers to the judge.

You should...

You should not...

Address the judge as 'Your Honour' before giving him your answers.

Be disrespectful to the judge or any person in court.

Keep calm and be polite.

Argue or get upset by any question or person.
You can ask the judge for time to calm down, if necessary.

Speak slowly and clearly so that everyone understands you.

Rush through your answers or mumble when speaking.

Tell the truth.

Lie in court. You may be committing a crime by lying and may be prosecuted later.

Ask for questions to be repeated if you did not hear it clearly.

Assume what is being asked if you did not hear it clearly.

Ask for words or terms to be explained if you do not understand them.

Answer questions you do not fully understand.

Ask for questions to be broken up into parts if you are not sure what exactly is being asked.

Give an answer without first thinking it through.

Reply "yes" or "no".

Nod or shake your head.

Say "I do not know", if you do not know the answer.

Give answers based on what someone else told you.

Say "I am not sure" if you are not sure.

Guess. You should be sure your answers are based on what you actually saw or heard.

Say "I cannot remember" if you cannot remember.

Give answers based on what you think probably happened.

Provide answers which are simple, factual and to the point.

Joke, or give unnecessary or irrelevant information.

Ask the judge for more time to read a document before answering questions about it, if necessary.

Read through a document and answer questions about it without fully understanding its contents.

Ask the judge for a break after giving evidence for some time.

Continue giving evidence when you are feeling unwell or tired.

Spell out any names or unusual terms.

Mispronounce words as it may confuse the court.

Make sure your mobile device is switched off.

Use your mobile device while giving evidence.

After you have completed giving evidence, you may leave the witness box with the judge's permission. The judge may order you to be recalled as a witness at any point before the case ends.

If you are attending court for a criminal case, you can also claim expenses, subject to certain limits.


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