What will happen on the day of the trial as a witness

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

On the day of the trial, you’ll have to go to court to give your evidence.

When you get to court, you can get help from the Witness Service. Ask the staff at the reception to help you find someone from the Witness Service.

You can ask the person from the Witness Service to show you a courtroom before you give evidence. They might show you a picture if a courtroom isn't free.

You can also get help from the Witness Service before the trial -  find out more about the Witness Service and how to get help.

If you’re worried about going to court because of coronavirus

The court should follow certain rules to keep you safe - you can read the latest guidance on GOV.UK.

You can check how to prepare if the court arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

Contact the court if they haven’t told you how to attend your hearing. You can search for the court’s contact details on GOV.UK.

What will happen when you give evidence

When you go into the courtroom, you’ll be ‘sworn in’ - this means you agree to tell the truth. It’s a criminal offence if you don’t tell the truth. You don’t have to remember what to say when you’re sworn in - you’ll be given a card with the words on it.

The lawyer representing the side which asked you to give evidence will start asking you questions.

When the lawyer asks you questions you can:

  • ask them to repeat a question or ask it in a different way

  • say if you don’t know the answer

  • ask them to explain any words you don’t understand

If you find it difficult to stand in the witness box

You’ll normally have to stand while you're in the witness box. If you find standing difficult, you can ask the magistrate or the judge if you can sit down.

When you’re asked questions by the other side

After you've given evidence for the side which called you as a witness, you'll be asked questions by the lawyer for the other side. This is called cross-examination.

It’s their job to try to present a different version of events. It can feel stressful but just tell the court in your own words what happened to you or what you saw. If you don’t understand a question, feel upset by the questions or feel unwell, you should say so. The magistrate or judge might let you have a break before you carry on. You can ask for a drink of water or a tissue if you need one.

Staying in the court building

If you want to leave the court building, for example to get some fresh air, you should ask the person from the Witness Service and they’ll pass on your request.

If you’re allowed to leave the building, you should let them know where you’re going and how you can be contacted. You shouldn’t go too far away in case you're needed back at short notice.

After you’ve given evidence

You’re free to go after you’ve given evidence. You can stay to watch the rest of the trial if you're aged 14 or over. You’ll sit in the courtroom with other members of the public.

You must not discuss anything you said or heard in court with other witnesses who haven’t given their evidence yet. This includes talking about it on social media sites, including Twitter or Facebook.

Keep your employer updated

You should let your employer know if you have to go back to court another day. Make sure you have arrangements in place such as child care.

It’s possible that you won’t have to go into the courtroom that day if other cases take longer than expected. If this happens, you might need to come back to court the next day or on another day.

If you need to claim expenses

You can claim expenses for going to court to give evidence - you’ll get a form to fill in. Make sure you keep receipts for expenses - you’ll need to hand these in with the form.

If you need help filling in the form, contact the Witness Service.

Find out how much you can claim on GOV.UK.

You won’t usually be able to claim expenses if you’re a character witness.

You also won’t be able to claim expenses if you attend court but refuse to give evidence.

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