What happens at the trial?
The people accusing the defendant of breaking the law are called the prosecution. The defence is the name for the people who try to prove that the defendant hasn’t broken the law. Both the prosecuting lawyer and the lawyer for the defence ask witnesses questions in court. One at a time, the witnesses are called into the courtroom to answer questions about what happened. Before you answer questions as a witness the usher will ask you to take the oath. This means that you promise to tell the truth.
What happen when I get to court?
When you get to court go to the desk and tell them that you are a witness in a trial that day. Somebody from the Witness Service will come and meet you and take you to a waiting room just for witnesses.
You will get a chance to read your statement to remind you what you told the police but you will not be able to take the statement into the courtroom with you.
Sometimes you may have to wait a while before the court are ready to hear your evidence so it is a good idea to take a magazine or book to read to pass the time.
Before you go into the courtroom tell the usher:
- if you have a religion, which Holy Book you use.
- if you are not religious – you can make a different promise that does not mention God.
- if you have any difficulty reading – the usher will say the words first and ask you to repeat them.
You should also tell the usher if there are other religious practices you need to observe while you are at court.
Lawyers often use words or phrases that are hard for witnesses to understand. It is important to be sure that you know what each question means before you answer it.
- If you don’t understand, say: “I don’t understand. Can you ask me that again in a different way?”
- If someone asks you the same question again and you still don’t understand it, it is alright to say: “I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand.”
- Someone may ask you two or three questions together. If this happens, it’s alright to say: “Please ask me the questions one at a time.”
Think carefully before you answer and take your time. If you know the answer, tell the court. Say what happened, and try not to leave anything out. Never make anything up, and don’t guess. Speak as clearly and loudly as you can. If you don’t know the answer, it’s alright to say: “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember”. If you forget to say something or if you make a mistake, tell the judge or magistrates.
Some questions may be about something the defendant did or said. The questions might make you feel embarrassed or upset. It’s alright to use any words you need to. The most important thing is telling the court everything you know.