Things to remember for
witnesses preparing to give evidence
Always tell the truth
You should always tell the truth and answer questions as per your recollection of the facts and events.
answer the question asked
Listen to the question carefully and only provide a response to that question. Focus on the question you are being asked rather than thinking about why the questioner is asking it.
Only answer the question
Do not volunteer more information than has been asked of you.
'Yes' or 'No' only
In cross-examination you should give your answer in the form of a “yes” or a “no” wherever possible, however if you are asked for a “yes” or “no” answer and this will not adequately answer the question, you may explain that you cannot give such an answer and why.
OK not to know the answer
If you truly do not know the answer to a question there is nothing wrong with saying “I do not know”.
'I don't remember'
If you are unable to remember the answer to a question there is nothing wrong with saying “I cannot remember”. In some cases the court may grant you leave (permission) to refresh your memory by looking at documents or notes you made.
'sorry I didn't catch that'
If you cannot hear a question you can ask the questioner to repeat it. If you need it, take a moment to think about your answer but if you cannot understand a question you can ask the questioner to rephrase it.
Speak loudly and clearly
You should speak loudly and clearly to ensure that you will be heard and understood by those in court. Try not to speak at too rapid a pace.
Leave opinion at the door
You may only give evidence as to what you personally did, saw, heard or otherwise perceived with one of your senses. You cannot give opinions, make assumptions or attempt to give evidence about what you believe someone else has knowledge of.
Stop for objections
If an objection is made you should immediately stop what you are saying and wait for the judge to make a decision. If the objection is overruled, answer the question. If the objection is upheld, wait for the next question to be asked.
Estimates are OK
If you are asked about dates, times and distances you can advise that you are giving an approximate answer.
Use everyday language
When answering questions you should use the same words that you would use in your everyday speech. You do not need to use technical language or professional jargon.
Don't lose your cool
When being questioned you should remain calm. Although the questioner may attempt to antagonise you, you should not lose your temper or enter into any argument.
No place for rudeness
You should maintain a polite, courteous and serious manner. Do not give sarcastic or clever answers.
Don't go overboard
Do not embellish or overstate facts. It will only serve to reduce your credibility as a witness.
Make sure you look the part
As a witness, your presentation and demeanor will be scrutinised just as much as the words that come out of your mouth. First impressions last. Dress and act as you would do if you were presenting for a job interview.