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Witness Guide: A guide to giving your Witness evidence.December 21, 2011
Giving your evidence at trial can be a very stressful experience. This guide will provide you with helpful information as to the procedures involved when giving your evidence. You will be provided prior to the Trial with a copy of your final witness statement. It may have been sometime since you last read this statement.
We will write to you well in advance with the date of the Trial. If it is not your case we will try and ensure that we will give you the day during the Trial when you will be giving your witness evidence. We will arrange to meet with you on the day at the Court and then take you to the Court where the case is to be heard.
If it is not your case you will be usually be able to sit in the Court and listen to the evidence.
When it is your time to give evidence you will be shown to the witness box by the Court Usher. The Judge will then ask you to take an oath or to affirm. You will be asked to read the oath or affirmation from a printed card and to hold the relevant Holy Book (subject to your practicing religion) in your uplifted right hand. You will then promise to tell the truth and you will be asked to confirm your full name, address and occupation.
Examination in Chief:
Examination in chief is usually simply confirming that the witness statement in the bundle is your own and you may well be asked some questions on matters contained in your statement. The examination in chief will usually be very short.
The opposing counsel will then cross examine you on those matters raised in your witness statement. The counsel may well challenge you on some matters contained in your witness evidence. He or she may well attempt to “trip you up” and discredit you. Cross examination will not be limited to those matters raised in your statement. Other matters may have arisen from documentation in the bundle which the opposing counsel will ask you questions on. It is therefore important that you have had sight of relevant documents which you can be questioned on and familiarise yourself with them, you should also familiarise yourself with your statement.
The most important thing to remember however, is that you tell the truth both in your statement and when answering questions in cross examination.
Re-examination involves counsel of the party who has called you seeking to clarify matters which may well have arisen during cross examination. It may be the case that your answer given in cross examination are not clear to the Court and therefore further questions are asked by counsel to clarify matters to ensure that your evidence is presented properly. It is usually the case that matters that have not been raised in cross examination cannot then be raised in re-examination.
It is important to remember when giving your evidence that at all times you tell the truth. It is also important that you keep calm, do not get cross and do not give long rambling answers, but stick to the point. If you cannot remember something then simply say so. When standing in the witness box, face the Judge turn when asked a question by counsel, but then answer the question directly to the Judge.
When addressing the Judge, a High Court Judge should be called my Lord or my Lady, or a County Court Judge your Honour. It is however acceptable to call a Judge Sir or Madam.
When addressing counsel for the Defendant or Claimant you can either call them Sir or Madam or if you know their name address them by Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. followed by their surname.
It is very important that all your evidence you give is honest and truthful. If your evidence is honest and truthful then there is nothing to fear by giving evidence at Court.