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About Summons to a Witness and subpoenas

A Summons to a Witness is a court order issued to a witness requiring them to attend court on a specified date and time to give oral evidence (testify) in relation to a criminal case.

A subpoena is a court order issued to a witness in a civil case or family case. There are 3 types of subpoenas that may require a witness to do the following:

  • Attend court to testify.
  • Produce documents without the obligation to attend court personally.
  • Attend court to testify and produce documents.

In general, you may receive a Summons to a Witness or a subpoena if a party or their lawyers (if any) believes that you may have information that is relevant to their case and that the court should hear.

Refer to the following to find out:

What it contains

A Summons to a Witness or a subpoena may contain the following information:

  • (For Summons to a Witness) The name of the accused and details of their offence.
  • (For subpoenas) The mode and purpose of attendance.
  • Dates, times and locations to report to.
  • Instructions to bring specific documents to the court hearing, if applicable.

Attendance is compulsory

You must not ignore a Summons to a Witness or subpoena. If you are required to attend court, it is compulsory for you to do so on the days and times mentioned.

If you fail to attend court for criminal proceedings without valid reasons, a Warrant of Arrest may be issued against you.

If you fail to attend court for civil or family proceedings without valid reasons when required, your Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (AEICs) may be rejected by the court.

If a child has to attend court

A child may be required to attend court to give evidence as a witness. If you are the parent or guardian of a child witness, you may refer to Prepare a child to attend court.

Before your court hearing

If you are required to attend court, you should settle the following matters before your court hearing.

If you are...

You should...

Unsure about what will happen in court

Wait for the party who issued the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena to contact and discuss details of the case with you.

You should find out the type of questions you may be asked, what information you need to provide and where the hearings will be held.

Uncomfortable speaking in English

Speak to the party who issued the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena to arrange for an interpreter to be present on your hearing day.

Afraid to give evidence in court

Speak to the party who issued the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena to refer you for support programmes for witnesses, if applicable.

Unable to take time off work to attend court

Provide your employer with a copy of the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena. Explain you have to comply.

If you have to attend court for more than one day and need to make plans in advance, speak to the party who issued the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena to find out how much time will be required from you.

Unable to attend court on any or all of the dates specified in the Summons to a Witness or subpoena

Inform the party who issued the Summons to a Witness or the subpoena as soon as possible. This allows them to explain your absence to the court.

If you are ill on the day you have to attend court, you will need a special medical certificate from a doctor that excuses you from attending court from a doctor.

Resources

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