Appearing as a Witness at Downing Centre Local Court

If you have important knowledge or information about a crime, you may be asked to attend court as a witness for the defence or the prosecution. This means that you will be required to answer questions and explain your information to the magistrate or jury to help them in making their decision. Appearing in a court, particularly if it is a large court such as Downing Centre Local Court can be intimidating. Having an understanding of the court process may help you feel more confident.

You will usually be asked to be a witness during a court case by the lawyer acting for the defence or the prosecution, or by the defendant themselves if they have no legal representation. The person who has asked you to be a witness will advise you when and where you need to go to court.

Can I refuse to be a witness?

You can refuse to act as a witness if you have a strong objection. If you do, you may be served with a subpoena by the lawyer acting for the defendant or prosecution. A subpoena is a court issued document which requires you to attend court and give evidence or product documentary or other physical evidence for a court case. If you have been served with a subpoena you will be required to attend court and give your testimony.

What if I’m away or sick?

If you are unwell or are going to be away on the date you are supposed to appear in court, it is important to notify the relevant parties as soon as possible. If you are not well on the day you will need to provide a medical certificate.

Can I wait in a separate area?

If you are concerned that you may be unsafe, or you feel threatened, you can ask to wait in a separate area from the defendant. Most courts, particularly large ones like Downing Centre Local Court, have safe waiting areas for witnesses and even remote rooms where some witnesses who may be under threat can give evidence over a video link.

What do I do when I get to court?

If you have never been to a court before, you may be unsure where to go when you get there. Courts are very large and busy places and there may be a lot of people milling around. When you arrive in the foyer of the court there will be a list of the matters that are to be heard that day, and the courtroom where they are being heard. If you can’t find your case on the list, or if you are still not sure where you need to go, you can speak to a member of staff – there is usually someone on duty to provide advice and answer questions.

How long will it take?

The length of time you will need to be at the court varies according to the complexity of the case and how crucial your evidence is. You may also have to wait a few hours for the hearing to actually start, so it is a good idea to bring a book and be prepared to spend the day at the court. Once you have given your evidence and have been cross-examined by the defence and prosecution, you will usually be allowed to go.

Although attending court can be time consuming and inconvenient, as a witness, your information could play a substantial part in helping the magistrate or jury make the right decision about a legal matter.

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