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Who is a witness

A witness is a person who is required to give information about a court case. If you have been identified as a witness, the information and documents which you provide to the court become evidence to help the court build a picture of what happened.

Refer to the following to find out what the role of a witness is depending on the nature of the court case.

When you are called to testify as a witness in criminal proceedings, it means you may:

  • Be a victim of a crime.
  • Have seen or heard something in connection with a crime.
  • Have information or documents about the accused.
  • Have information relating to the victim of a crime.

Your role as a witness

Being a witness is very important in the criminal justice process. Your evidence will help the court decide whether the accused is guilty of the crime they are being charged with.

It is compulsory for you to attend court when you are issued a Summons to a Witness(1).

When giving evidence in court, your duty is to answer truthfully the questions posed to you by the accused (if they are self-represented), lawyers, prosecutors and the judge. You must never:

  • Change your evidence to benefit anyone.
    • Your lawyer (if any) can help to prepare you for a case by explaining the court process, and clarify and structure your memories of the case but should never tell you what to say in court.
  • Influence the evidence of another witness.
  • Discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyer, if any.
When you are called as a witness in civil proceedings or family proceedings, it means you may:

  • Be involved in the issues arising in a dispute between parties.
  • Have seen or heard something in connection with the dispute.
  • Have information or documents in your possession, custody or power which are relevant to the case.
    • A document is considered relevant if a party relies or will rely on it in court and it could adversely affect their own case, adversely affect another party’s case or support another party’s case.

Your role as a witness

Being a witness is important in the civil and family justice process. A party may rely on your information to be used as evidence in court. This evidence will help the court decide on the judgment or order they may make in favour of, or against, the party.

It is compulsory for you to produce the necessary documents or attend court if you have been issued a subpoena to do so.

Note
As a witness, before giving evidence, you should not discuss with anyone who has witnessed the ongoing proceedings (including other witnesses who have given evidence) the evidence that you would be giving or the evidence given by other witnesses. After giving evidence, you should not discuss with other witnesses who have yet to give their evidence what you have said or heard in court.

Giving evidence through Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief

Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief (AEICs) are sworn statements containing your own account of the facts relating to the disputed issues in a civil or family case. AEICs will stand as your testimony and you may be cross-examined on your AEIC by the parties involved in the case or their lawyers (if any) in a hearing or trial.

In general, the party who is calling you as a witness or their lawyers will meet with you to prepare your AEIC. The party or their lawyers (if any) are then required to exchange your AEIC with the other party or their lawyers prior to the hearing or trial.

As your AEIC constitutes your evidence in court, it is important for you to be true and accurate in describing the facts in your AEIC. Contempt of court proceedings may be brought against you if you are found to have made false statements in your AEIC.

The party who is calling you as a witness or their lawyers (if any) can help to prepare you for a case by explaining the court process, and clarify and structure your memories of the case but should never tell you what to include in your AEIC or say in court.

If you have to attend court for a trial or hearing, you cannot give evidence that is not contained in your AEIC without the court’s permission.

If you do not attend court when required, your AEIC may be rejected by the court.

Resources

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