Am I a witness?

Strategies to protect yourself

Here is some advice for when you have to give evidence in Court:



  • When the Court wants someone to give evidence on a particular case it will send a letter, called a ‘citation’, to the witness's address (or to their legal carers/parents' address, if they are under 16 years of age).
  • After receiving the letter, you should speak with an adult with whom you feel comfortable and, eventually, with a lawyer or a victim support worker, who can explain what will happen in Court, what your role is and the role of the other people present. Those people can also tell you about special measures that exist in the law to protect witnesses and help them do their best when giving evidence in Court (for more information on this see What support can I get?).
  • You should inform the Court in advance if you would like to make use of some of those measures. These include:
    • Visiting the Courtroom beforehand to become familiar with the setting and where all those participating will be placed. This is a good strategy to reduce anxiety and to feel more comfortable when you have to answer the questions.
    • Having someone supporting you during the Trial (a support person). This person can be a relative, someone you trust or an experienced professional. Having someone by your side may help you to tell the Court what happened with more confidence and less worries.
    • Giving your evidence without having to go into the Courtroom, using a special television. The television room might be in the same building as the Courtroom. Sometimes you won't have to come into the Court building at all. The television room might be in another building away from the Court.
    • Giving your evidence from behind a screen in the Court room. The screen is like a curtain that divides the room. It means you don’t have to see the accused person. You will still be able to see the Judge, the lawyers and other Court staff.
  • Speak with someone whom you trust about what you feel, what are your fears and expectations about going to Court (but not about what you know about what happened). Talking about it might calm you down.
  • If someone bothers you, tries to intimidate you, pressures or threatens you in before or during the trial, tell the police immediately. You can ask an adult you trust for help: tell him/her what happened and ask him/her to go with you to the police to explain what happened.



  • Ensure you got a good night sleep the night before.
  • Have breakfast and take a snack with you to Court.
  • Don’t be late. Plan your journey so you arrive to Court 30 minutes ahead of the time stated in the citation that you received. Don't forget to bring the citation with you.
  • Take something to keep you busy while you are waiting (magazines, books, games, music).
  • Ask someone you trust to go with you: such as your parents, a relative, a teacher or a friend. Someone will be available to accompany and support you. There is also a Witness Service in the Court. The people working for the Witness Service are there especially to support and advise witnesses and their families.
  • When you arrive in Court go to the information desk or to a security officer and ask where the waiting room is.
  • Wait in the waiting room until the Court Officer calls your name. This means it is your turn to go into the Courtroom or the place where you will give evidence.
  • If you need to use the toilets do it before going into the Courtroom.
  • Mobile phones, laptops, MP3 and other electronic devices must be disconnected before entering the Courtroom. You cannot enter the room while chewing gum or eating. Use your gadgets and eat your snack/chew your gum while you’re waiting for your turn.
  • Sometimes the Trial will get postponed to another date, that is, the Court, on the day set for the Trial, decides that there aren’t enough conditions to proceed – for example, because someone important for the case is not present, or because there are not enough rooms. In this event, the Court Officer comes to the waiting areas to inform that the Trial will not take place on that date and is adjourned to another date (take note of the date and time the Court Officer indicates).



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Going to Court can make people feel nervous and afraid. But it can also be important for the witnesses, as they have the opportunity to share what they know about what happened and help reach Justice, by helping the Court decide whether someone is or isn’t guilty of committing a crime.


In the Courtroom:

  • Head to the place indicated by the Court Officer.
  • The Judge will ask you to say your name and to pledge oath. The oath is when you promise to tell the truth in Court.

When you are asked questions remember that:

  • You should always tell the truth about what happened, with all the details you remember. That is your role as a witness.
  • Listen carefully to te questions you are asked. Reply only after the question has ended.
  • Take your time to think about the question you were asked and about your answer.
  • Reply slowly and calmly to all the questions. Usually there is a microphone in front of you. Talk close to it when you are replying.
  • Ensure your replies are clear, with short sentences, saying only what you know about what happened. The Judge (or the jury) wants to know what you know (because you saw or heard the situation or experienced it personally) and not your opinion about what happened.
  • Do not be afraid to say everything you know or all the details you remember. All the information you give may be important to find out what happened and for the Judge (or the jury) to make a decision. If you need to use inappropriate language (e.g. swear words) to say everything you know, that is ok. You won’t get in trouble.
  • Answer only about what you have been asked. Do not try to please the people who are asking the questions by giving information on things you don't know.
  • Do not reply to questions that you don’t fully understand. You can ask for the question to be repeated or explained. You can say: “I’ m sorry. I didn’t understand. Can you please explain the question?”.
  • For questions that you do not know how to answer, just say: “I don’t know.” Never make up an answer. Remember that your role is to say what you know about what happened.
  • It’s possible that you are asked the same question more than once. Try to reply in the same way as the first time. You can also say “I have already replied to that question.”
  • It is natural to not remember all the details of some events. If this happens don’t worry and don't be afraid to say “I don’t remember”. Forgetting past events is normal. It may be because some time passed (you may have to give evidence about something that happened many months or years ago) or because what happened was unpleasant and you have tried to avoid thinking about it.
  • It is natural to be afraid, nervous or upset. Giving evidence can be frightening for anyone. Speaking about a crime you witnessed (or which you were a victim of) isn’t an easy task (because it forces you to remember sad events that you want to forget and “erase” from your memory). One of the reactions you might have is crying. Do not feel embarrassed because of that. The people in the Trial will understand that reaction. That has happened before to many people in the same situation.
  • If you feel tired or too nervous, you can ask for a break, to go to the toilet; you can also ask for a glass of water or some tissues.
  • Do not be afraid of the accused; do not his/her presence to stop you from saying what you know. Avoid looking at him/her when you answer the questions. Look only at the person asking the questions. If you prefer to talk in the absence of the accused, you can choose to give your evidence while standing behind a screen (like a curtain separating you from the accused) or from a separate room using a special TV.
  • Do not feel sorry for the accused. The purpose of the Trial is for the Judge (or the Jury) to hear all the evidence and decide if the accused is or not considered guilty: if there is enough evidence to prove that he/she committed the crime, the accused must be considered responsible and punished for breaking the law.
  • The witness is not accused of anything: the witness has not committed any crime. The witness is there to help the Court gather important information so that the right decisions can be made.



  • Remember that you are not responsible for the decision that the Court takes about the accused. You played your role: telling the Court what you know about what happened. The decision whether or not to punish the accused for committing a crime belongs to the Court.
  • After you give your evidence, the Trial hearing may continue and other witnesses may be heard. You are free to leave the Court after you have finished giving your evidence. While the Trial is still going on, do not talk to anyone about what you know or about what happened when you gave your evidence.
  • When the case has a Jury, after listening to all witnesses all members will go to a separate room to decide whether or not they think the accused is guilty of the crime. There needs to be a majority of 8 jury members or more who think the accused committed the crime in order to reach a guilty verdict. If less than 8 jury members think the accused is guilty, this is not enough to decide the accused is guilty and the accused person will instead be found ‘not guilty’ or ‘not proven’. Once the Jury have reached their decision they will return to the Courtroom and tell the Judge their decision. The Judge then has to decide on a suitable punishment for the accused (who would now be referred to as ‘the offender’). Sometime the Judge will do this on the same day but very often the Judge will need time to do this and may announce the Sentence after some days or weeks.

    If you would like you can attend to hear the Sentence, but you do not have to. There are other people who can find out the sentence for you and let you know.
  • Regarding the Sentence, remember that:
    • If the accused is acquitted (meaning he/she is found “not guilty” or “not proven”), that does not mean that the Judge (or the Jury) has not believed your evidence. Being acquitted does not mean being innocent. The acquittal means that not enough evidence was collected for the Jury to make a confident decision about whether or not the accused was guilty of committing the crime.
    • If the Judge (or the Jury) finds the accused guilty, the Judge will decide what the most appropriate sentence: a prison sentence, a fine, community work, among others.
  • If someone threatens, intimidates or (tries) to harm you after you gave your evidence in Court (for example: the accused, their relatives/friends, other witnesses) speak with an adult you trust and ask them to go to the police with you to explain what is happening.