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  • Writer's pictureSam Kuhn


Being a witness

At some point in your life you may be asked to attend court as a witness or even requested by one of the team at Creevey Russell Lawyers to give evidence.

Depending on your career you may also be asked to attend a court as an expert witness, such as a doctor or engineer, to provide advice about the evidence presented.

You could be a witness for the prosecution or the defence. In either case, both the defence and prosecution lawyers may ask you questions about what you know to ensure the facts presented about the case are correct.

Before a hearing or trial, the defendant may apply for bail. It is common practice (depending on the crime) that the defendant will be allowed bail. This means the defendant can go free on the condition they sign a bail undertaking to appear at further court dates and follow any conditions the court sets.

If the defendant is allowed bail, the police should tell witnesses of any bail applications and what the conditions are.

If you fear for your or your family's safety with the accused being granted bail, please make sure you inform your contact at Creevey Russell Lawyers or tell the police as it may be possible to oppose bail.

Vulnerable witnesses, including children, victims of sexual assault and people with an intellectual disability, may receive special help to reduce the trauma of giving evidence.

If you are a vulnerable witness, you may be able to:

  • have a support person with you in court

  • record your evidence or give it over a video link from a remote witness room

  • have a screen put up so you don’t have to see the accused person

  • have the court closed to the public and media.

If you feel you need special help, speak to the prosecutor or your contact at Creevey Russell Lawyers who can apply to the court for you. The magistrate or judge will decide if you can have help.

The court process can be daunting for a witness, particularly if you witness a violent crime. Support, information and advice are available to help witnesses throughout the legal process and here are some links to help:

  • Victim Assist Queensland: Explains the legal process and helps you prepare for your appearance in court

  • Relationships Australia: Provides free support and counselling to help you recover from the emotional and psychological impact of witnessing a crime

  • Court Network: A voluntary service providing support, non-legal information and referral for people going to court.

If you are a victim of crime, you may be asked to attend court as a witness for the prosecution.

If the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) decides to prosecute the offender, the ODPP will appoint a victim liaison officer to help you throughout the court process.

They will:

  • keep you informed of when the case will go to court

  • tell you if you need to be a witness

  • arrange for you to discuss what will happen in court

  • organise a support person

  • help you write a victim impact statement

  • refer you to specialist support and counselling services.

Creevey Russell Lawyers or another party can apply to have you legally ordered to go to court as a witness, particularly if you are a witness for the prosecution.

This is called a ‘summons’ if you’re needed as a witness in a Magistrates Court or a ‘subpoena’ in a District or Supreme Court.

If you are summonsed or subpoenaed and do not attend court, you may be found guilty of contempt of court and a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

A summons or subpoena will tell you the day the trial is due to start. If you are unsure when to go to court, contact the person who requested you to appear. Their details should be on the summons or subpoena.

If you are a victim of crime, your victim liaison officer or the prosecutor will tell you when to go to court. If you are a witness for the defence, the defence lawyer will usually tell you.

On the court day, the person who asked you to attend court or your representative from Creevey Russell Lawyers will meet you. They will take you to an area outside the courtroom to wait—some courthouses have secure waiting rooms for witnesses.

You cannot go into the courtroom until you are called to give your evidence. Do not discuss the case with other witnesses.

Giving evidence

A court official will call you to give evidence—a court services officer in a Magistrates Court or a bailiff in a District and Supreme Court. You will go into the witness box and take an oath or affirmation that what you say is the truth.

The defence and prosecution lawyers will then ask you questions about what you know:

  • Answer only the questions they ask you.

  • Take your time, keep calm and answer each question clearly.

  • If you do not understand a question or you didn’t hear it properly, ask them to repeat it.

  • If you feel upset or distressed, pause; you can ask for a break if you need to. Continue with your evidence only when you are ready. Everyone in the court must hear and understand your evidence.

  • Always tell the truth when you answer questions. It is a crime (perjury) to lie in court.

When you finish giving evidence, you will be released from your oath, and asked to stand down and leave the witness box. You may then watch the trial from the public gallery.

The thought of attending a court may seem very daunting but remember your contact at Creevey Russell Lawyers is there to assist you all the way.


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