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Giving Evidence

We will be calling you to give evidence. You will go through your evidence with us before the trial. You should have a copy of the statement, and read it again before the hearing. If anything else has occurred to you since we last spoke, or if you feel that any part of the statement needs to be corrected, please be sure to let us know as soon as possible. In many cases now, such statements have to be made known to the other party before the trial; you must not just leave any amendment until the day before.

When you are giving evidence, you say what you remember whilst in the witness box. It is not a memory test for you about what was said in the statement. If you are unsure about something whilst giving evidence we prefer you to say so.

You will be asked to swear an oath to tell the truth. Courts are quite happy now to accept whatever forms of words you consider will bind you to tell the truth. It is helpful if you can warn us in advance if you do not wish to be sworn on the Bible so that another arrangement can be made.

Take the oath seriously; tell the truth and let us worry about the consequences. Your job in the witness box is simply to give evidence, not to persuade. We ask you remember that you cannot avoid those who assess your evidence taking into account the way in which you appear as well as your words. Without going overboard, we would always recommend that you dress cleanly, plainly, and quietly.

Whoever asks the questions, give your answers to the judge. Give your answers calmly and clearly and if someone is writing down what you say (several people may be) allow them the chance to write it down, by stopping till they catch up. Use the pause to think about your answers.

There are four phases to giving evidence. First our advocate will take you through your statement. We do not lead you and our questions will not suggest the answer we want. Take our question as an invitation to expand on your memory of events so far as is relevant.

The second stage is where our opponents will cross examine you. The cross examiner usually has little to go on save one or two questions which arise from your answers to our questions and the answers which you give him. His job is to challenge what you say and this is the most difficult part for you. Do not be nervous. We will judge what part of what you say is damaging, you need not. If you feel embarrassed at the answer you have to give, give the answer. We will take it up again with you if we feel it is necessary but you will not then be under the same pressure. Under no circumstances must you get angry or upset. If you feel this happening look across to us. This can break the pressure on you and put you back in charge.

Keep your answers short and to the point. The longer you go on, the longer the ordeal of cross-examination will last. If you do not know or are unsure of the answer to a question, then say so. Keep everything as simple as you can, listen to the question and answer precisely.

After the cross examination, we will come back to you to re-examine you on any question raised by the cross examination. This can be used to clear up points from the cross examination, but it is an ideal opportunity to clarify those points on which you felt hard pressed in a less threatening way.

Last the Judge or Magistrates may ask any questions they may have of you. It is best to simply assume that any such question should be answered as simply and directly and honestly as you can.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 43 18 October 2013