Giving evidence in court

You may be required to give evidence for the prosecution as a result of either being a victim of or a witness to a crime, or you could be asked to give evidence for the defence.

What to expect at court

If you have to give evidence, and you have made a statement to the police, the prosecutor or the defence will give you a copy of your statement beforehand so that you can read over it and refresh your memory.

When you go to court be prepared to wait a while before you are called in to the court to give evidence. Some cases are delayed or even put off until another date for various reasons; for example an earlier case may have lasted longer than expected or other witnesses in your case may not have turned up. Sometimes a defendant pleads guilty just before or during the case and you may not be required to give evidence at all.

When you are called to give evidence you will be shown to the witness box and be asked to stand. Before giving evidence in court you will be asked if you wish to take an oath or make an affirmation that your evidence is true. The difference between an oath and an affirmation is that the oath is a religious commitment where as an affirmation is non-religious.

Oaths and affirmations

Below are examples of the types of oaths and affirmations used in court.

Witness Oath

"I swear by .......... (according to religious belief) that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Witness Affirmation

"I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Promissory Oath

This oath should be taken by any person before a youth or family court and by a child before any other court. A child under the age of 14 shall give their evidence unsworn in criminal proceedings.

"I promise before .......... (according to religious belief) that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Promissory Affirmation

"I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Crown Court Witness Oath

"I swear by .......... (according to religious belief) that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Crown Court Witness Affirmation

"I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Giving evidence

The evidence at a trial usually starts with the prosecution witnesses and is then followed by the defence witness.

It is the role of the prosecution lawyers to prove the case against the defendant.

It is the role of the defence lawyer at a trial to assess the prosecution's case, argue against it and, if necessary, present the defendant's evidence. Essentially they are testing the strength of the prosecution evidence.

When giving your evidence:

  • take your time, speak slowly and clearly
  • ask for the question to be repeated if you do not understand it or cannot hear
  • if you are not sure of the answer, say so
  • you can ask the judge for guidance
  • talk to the judge (or jury if there is one) when giving your evidence

If you are a witness for the prosecution, they will ask you questions first. If you are a witness for the defence then the defence solicitor or barrister will ask you questions first. This is called giving your "evidence in chief".

Cross examination

When you have finished giving your "evidence in chief" you will be cross-examined by lawyers for the other side. Cross examination is necessary to make sure a fair trial takes place.

When the cross-examination has finished you may be asked some questions from the first lawyer again-this is called re-examination.

The judge may also ask you questions at any time.

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