Courts Tasmania


DURING THE TRIAL

When you attend court

You should arrive well before the time you are scheduled to give your evidence. You will find a list of cases being heard that day on a notice board at the Court. You should then find the party you are giving evidence for (or his legal representative). You may be told approximately what time you will be giving evidence.

When you find the courtroom, you should report to the court officer and then wait out of hearing distance from the courtroom. This avoids the possibility that it could be suggested that your evidence may have been influenced by what you have heard others say. If you have to leave the waiting area for any reason, let the court officer know where you can be found

A courtroom is divided into the Judge's bench, the Judge's associate's desk, the witness box, the "bar table" (where the legal representative or party representing him or herself sits), and the public gallery. You will give your evidence from the witness box, which is near the desk of the court officer, who performs various formal functions during a court hearing. Judges and Magistrates are referred to as "Your Honour" and it is important that you follow this practice if you wish to ask the Judge or Magistrate a question.

The virtual tour of the Magistrates Court shows the layout of a courtroom.

Do I have to take an oath or affirmation?

When it is time for you to give your evidence, the court officer will usher you to the witness box and ask you whether you prefer to take an "oath" to tell the truth or to make an "affirmation" to do so. An oath has religious significance and an affirmation does not. 

When people give evidence in court, they are asked to take an oath or affirmation that they will tell the truth. It is an offence to give false evidence in court after taking this oath or affirmation. Your evidence will be regarded in precisely the same way regardless of whether you take an oath or make an affirmation.

The Court will require at least 24 hours' notice of any arrangements that may need to be made to enable you to take the oath or affirmation. For example, the Court must be notified if you require a holy book other than the Bible. If this is the case, you should inform the party (or his or her legal representative) who has called you as a witness.

Affidavits

An affidavit is a written statement of evidence which the witness has sworn or affirmed to be true. You well may be asked to make an affidavit by the party (or his or her legal representative) before you attend the Court. An affidavit should include:

• your full name, address and occupation; and
• full details of your evidence.

A legal practitioner may assist you prepare your affidavit. An affidavit must be sworn or affirmed before an appropriate person such as a justice of the peace.

How will I give evidence?

If you have made an affidavit, the party (or his or her legal representative) who has "called" you to give evidence will ask questions to confirm your name, address and the content of your affidavit.

If your evidence is not in an affidavit, you will give it by answering questions which will be asked by the party (or her or his legal representative) who called you.

Sometimes, even when a witness's evidence is in affidavit form, a party may request permission from the Judge to supplement the affidavit by providing oral evidence on a topic which is not covered, or covered properly, in the affidavit. In this case, your evidence will also be presented through questions and answers.

Sometimes, the party who first called you to give evidence may ask to re-examine you to clarify the evidence which you gave.

What is cross-examination?

"Cross-examination" is when a witness is asked questions by the other party (or his or her legal representative) in the case. One reason for cross-examination is to "test" and reduce the impact of the witness's evidence. Another reason is to obtain evidence which the witness did not give and which may favour the other party.

There are a number of useful points to remember as a witness:

Do I have to stay in court after giving evidence?

Once your evidence is finished, the party (or his or her legal representative) who called you to give evidence will ask the Judge to excuse you from remaining at Court, which will almost always be granted. Once the Judge gives permission, you are free to leave the Court or to remain in the public gallery.

The evidence that you have given is publicly available (except in a rare situation where there has been a 'suppression order') and you may tell others what evidence you have given. However, it is important not to discuss your evidence with someone who is yet to give evidence so that there is no suggestions that that person's evidence has been influenced by discussions with you.