Tips For Giving Evidence at Court
1. Try to be calm and relaxed, take a sip of water and take deep breaths and settle in to the process, you’re only there to tell the truth and have nothing to worry about,
2. Dress smartly for Court (read our tips for attending court),
3. Address the Magistrate as “Your Honour”, myself as “Mr Andrews” and the OPA’s solicitor is “Ms Everett”,
4. The golden rule is to answer the question you’re asked as directly and succinctly as possible – if the lawyer or Magistrate wants more information, you will be asked another question,
5. The most compelling way to give your evidence is like a story, one chapter at a time, one subject at a time and no more than a few sentences in response to each question, you may wish to practice telling your story in this way before giving evidence so that it will come naturally on the witness stand,
6. When you’re being asked questions, look at the person who is asking you questions and treat it like a conversation,
7. When you’re making a point which you think is particularly significant, look at the Magistrate/Jury, don’t do this too frequently or it will appear contrived,
8. Read over your witness statement a few times to familiarise yourself with it, you won’t have it in front of you,
9. There is no need to memorise your evidence, it is not a memory test and you want to give the appearance of being spontaneous in the way that you answer questions at the same time you want to be familiar enough with your evidence that you don’t need to take long pauses to remember things,
10. Speak slowly and try to speak in a voice that is loud and clear enough to be heard (don’t shout)
11. I will ask your questions first to elicit your evidence in chief, then the OPA’s lawyer will ask you some questions, called cross-examination,
12. Sometimes the lawyer cross-examining you will try to make you flustered, upset or angry, remain calm – their objective is to make you emotional and you will frustrate them by remaining calm,
13. During cross-examination, you will be able to answer many of the questions asked in cross-examinations with variations of “yes” or “no”, you can use different words so that you don’t sound too robotic,
14. The lawyer cross-examining you may try to interrupt you to confuse you or because they don’t like the answer you’re giving, if this happens, state “I hadn’t finished answering the question, as I was saying…” finish your answer. The lawyer is not allowed to interrupt your answers and when they do this there is a reason for it.
15. If you don’t know the answer simply say that you don’t know,
16. If you don’t understand a question, ask “could you please clarify/rephrase the question?” Don’t try to guess what a question means and answer the question you think you’re being asked,
17. Never argue during cross-examination such as by responding in a way that is sarcastic or unresponsive,
18. If you have notes, diaries, reports etc, you can bring them with you to Court, if you can’t remember a detail and the materials are likely to assist you in answering a question, you can ask to be permitted to look at your materials to refresh your memory.
19. It is best to have a polite and courteous demeanour when addressing the lawyers and the Court, you want to come across as consistent: not co-operative with one lawyer and combative with the other,
20. If you are an accused, studies show that people wearing blue are perceived as more credible.