Learn the ropes of being a witness in court, from preparations to testifying.
Continuing from the previous article on the responsibilities and preparations of a witness in a court trial, it is evident that the role of a witness involves more than just showing up on the day of the trial.
To ensure a smooth and effective contribution to the proceedings, preparation and punctuality play pivotal roles. The insights shared by the Attorney General’s Chambers of Brunei Darussalam underscore the importance of cooperation between witnesses and prosecutors, all aimed at upholding the integrity of the trial.
In this continuation, we will delve into what transpires during the day of the trial itself.
WHAT TO BRING?
You are not required to bring any documents you’ve prepared for the trial, including your Section 117B Criminal Procedure Code statement, as these will be provided to you in court by the Prosecutor.
However, if the Prosecutor or the investigating officer (IO) specifically requests that you bring the original copies of certain documents, such as your pocket diary, it is important to comply with the request.
If you are responsible for the exhibits that need to be presented in court, make sure these exhibits are brought into the courtroom before the trial commences.
Remain outside the courtroom until your name is called by the court clerk or interpreter when it’s your turn to testify.
The waiting duration can fluctuate, so you may want to consider bringing reading material or any other activity to help pass the time while you wait.
IN COURT AND GOING UNDER OATH
Upon hearing your name, you will be escorted into the courtroom.
As you enter, it is customary to bow respectfully to the Magistrate or Judge. You will then be guided to the witness dock.
The court Interpreter will request you to raise your right hand and administer going under oath to speak the truth. You will be provided with a card and asked to recite the oath in the language you intend to use for your testimony.
STAGES OF GIVING EVIDENCE
There are three stages of giving evidence, and this includes examination-in-chief, cross-examination and re-examination.
Examination-in-chief are the inquiries presented by the Prosecutor. If you have prepared a Section 117B Criminal Procedure Code statement, you will be instructed to read it aloud in the courtroom.
Cross-examination is the phase of your testimony that involves the defendant or defence lawyer posing questions to you.
Following the cross-examination by the defence lawyer or defendant, the Prosecutor may pose additional questions to you, and this is called the re-examination. This is done to clarify any points raised during the cross-examination or to give you an opportunity to elaborate on an answer if necessary.
It’s important to note that re-examination doesn’t occur in every case.
Once you have completed your testimony, you will be excused from the courtroom. When exiting the courtroom, it is customary to once again show respect by bowing to the Magistrate or Judge.
HOW TO TESTIFY IN COURT?
In the courtroom, it is imperative to always speak the truth. Never speculate about events or details you did not personally witness, hear or experience. If you genuinely lack knowledge or cannot answer a question, it is perfectly acceptable to inform the Court with phrases like “I don’t know” or “I did not see/hear it”.
Additionally, when called upon to provide estimates of time, dates, or distances during your testimony, exercise careful consideration before responding.
When presenting your testimony, it is vital to attentively listen to the questions and ensure you comprehend them before responding. If you missed the question, request it to be repeated.
If you heard the question but find it unclear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Only provide answers when you are absolutely certain that you understand the inquiry being posed to you. Always take your time to carefully consider your response before answering a question. There’s no need to rush through your testimony.
Questions are typically structured to present your evidence in a logical and coherent sequence.
In your responses, avoid jumping from one topic to another, as it may confuse the understanding of your evidence.
Focus exclusively on the question at hand and stay on point while also refraining from veering off-topic or volunteering unrelated information. If further details are necessary, the Prosecutor or the defendant/defence lawyer will inquire accordingly.
You may encounter questions that are uncomfortable or distressing. You might also face challenges regarding the accuracy of your statements.
In such instances, remain composed and continue to provide truthful and accurate responses to the best of your ability.
During cross-examination, the defendant or defence lawyer may present certain statements or suggestions for your agreement or disagreement.
It is crucial to listen attentively and comprehend what is being presented. These questions should not upset you, as they represent the defendant’s perspective on the facts. If you disagree, a simple response of “I do not agree” suffices.
GENERAL TIPS FOR GIVING EVIDENCE
Every word spoken in the witness dock is meticulously recorded. To ensure your words are clearly heard by everyone in the courtroom, speak deliberately and distinctly.
Direct your attention to the Magistrate or Judge while providing your testimony. They are actively listening to your responses and observing your “body language” to assess your truthfulness.
If you are testifying through an interpreter, patiently wait for the interpreter to fully translate the entire question before offering your response.
Stick to the language you have selected and avoid switching languages during your testimony. Don’t hesitate to request a break if you need to use the restroom; it is perfectly acceptable.
Occasionally, the defence lawyer may pose questions assertively, but it’s essential to remember that you are not in trouble, and no one is upset with you.
This comprehensive guide aims to provide invaluable assistance to those who find themselves in the role of a witness during a court trial. From the essential preparations before the trial to the actual process of testifying in court, we’ve covered key aspects that can help individuals navigate this often intimidating experience.
Understanding the importance of preparation, punctuality, and clarity in your testimony is essential. Moreover, knowing how to handle different stages of giving evidence, including examination-in-chief, cross-examination, and re-examination, can greatly contribute to the integrity of the trial.
Always remember the significance of honesty, patience, and composure while speaking in court. Our hope is that this guide empowers witnesses with the knowledge and confidence needed to fulfil their crucial role in the justice system. – Rizal Faisal