You will be notified by the party (person or presecutor involved in a case) who requires your evidence, or by his or her legal representative, that you are requested to attend the Court as a witness for that party. You should let the party (or her or his legal representative) know if you have prior arrangements, such as a hospital visit or a holiday, which may affect the days you are able to attend.
In the case ofcriminal prosecution you will receive a witness summons to give evidence about the case. If you do not attend court as required a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
If, on the day you are required to attend Court, you become ill or some other emergency occurs, contact the party (or his or her legal representative) as soon as possible. If you fail to attend without notification, this may cause considerable inconvenience to the Court and the parties involved.
If you refuse to attend the Court as a witness, you may be "served" with a subpoena. This is an order of the Court which tells someone that he or she must attend the Court on a particular date and time. It is an offence to disobey a subpoena and failure to attend the Court may result in arrest. You may also be charged with contempt of court if you disobey a subpoena.
It is likely that one or both of the parties will want to see you before the hearing to go through your evidence. This is useful and will give you an idea of the type of questions you might be asked when you are in the witness box in the courtroom. It also gives you an opportunity to ask questions.
You should make sure you have the correct details of the date, time and place of the hearing. Organise any papers about the case that you have and bring them to court so that you can refer to them easily if necessary.
Many people have never been into a courtroom before. It is a good idea to visit the particular Court before the case to see where the hearing will take place. Courts are usually open to the public and you are entitled to observe other cases to familiarise yourself with the way the Court functions. You may also look at the virtual tour of the Magistrates Court.
If you have any problems with understanding or speaking English, with reading, poor eye sight or any other health issues which affect your mobility, you should advise the party (or his or her lawyer) who asked you to come to court.
You do not need a lawyer to appear as a witness in court. However, if you are concerned that the evidence you give may cause you a legal problem, you should see a lawyer before you give evidence.