There can often be many months between making your statement to police and giving evidence at the trial.
In the lead up to going to court it is useful to have read over your statement carefully several times. This will help you remember what you told police at the time you made your statement. If you don't have a copy of your statement ask the police informant or Office of Public Prosecutions' (OPP) solicitor for one. You are not able to look at your statement while you are giving evidence.
Oath or affirmation?
In court, you will be called when it is your turn to give evidence and shown to the witness box at the front of the courtroom. You will be asked to either take an oath on a religious text or make an affirmation that you will tell the truth when giving your evidence.
You must choose one or the other.
Take an oath
'I swear (or the person taking the oath may promise) by Almighty God (or the person may name a god recognised by his or her religion) that the evidence I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.'
You can swear on the Bible, Koran, or other holy book of your choosing.
Make an affirmation
'I solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.'
The choice is yours. Either way you are swearing that your
evidence will be the truth.
The barrister engaged by the OPP will ask you questions about the incident. You will not be allowed to look at your statement. You may have to identify pieces of evidence or look at photographs and maps of the scene of the crime. This is called ‘examination-in-chief’.
Next, the barrister for the accused will ask you questions. This is called ‘cross-examination’. Some of these questions may be upsetting or embarrassing, and you may be challenged about whether you are telling the truth. Answer all questions as truthfully and accurately as you can. If you cannot remember something, it is all right to say so. If you need a break you can ask the judge.
As a witness you can give evidence of what you saw, did or heard first hand. Information you received from other people, such as something you were told about but did not see yourself, generally cannot be used in court. This is called hearsay.
Speak in a clear voice so that the jury, the judge and the barristers can hear you. If you cannot hear the questions or you do not fully understand a question, you can ask the person to repeat or explain it.
When the barrister for the accused has finished asking you questions, the barrister engaged by the OPP may ask you more questions to clarify some of the answers you gave. This is called ‘re-examination’.
You may be asked questions by the judge. You should address the judge as ’Your Honour’.
Time it takes
The whole process of giving your evidence may take a few minutes or several hours.
Sometimes you will be asked to leave the witness box for a short time because there is a legal issue that needs to be discussed by the barristers and the judge in private. If this happens, stay close by because you may be called back at any time.
When you have finished giving your evidence you will be excused by the judge. You may then leave the courtroom.