Being a witness in an inquest

If you are asked to be a witness in an inquest you must attend the court hearing. This is called a summons to appear and is given to you by police.

You can be arrested if you don’t attend an inquest.

If you don’t live in the Northern Territory (NT) or you live in a remote area, it may be possible to give your evidence by video link or phone.

To request this you will have to call the coroner's clerk on (08) 8999 7770 as soon you receive your summons to appear at the inquest.

Financial help to attend an inquest

You can apply to be reimbursed for any financial loss you have experienced because you have to attend an inquest.

This includes expenses such as travel costs and lost wages.

Contact the coroner's clerk on (08) 8999 7770 before the inquest to find out what arrangements can be made.

What you should bring to an inquest

You should take any relevant documents about the case to the inquest.

You may be asked to read from documentation, so remember to bring your reading glasses if you need them.

When you arrive at court for an inquest

When you arrive at court, the lawyer assisting the coroner will speak with you. They are also called counsel assisting the coroner.

You may sit outside the courtroom until you are called inside by a court officer.

Sometimes many witnesses may be called and the length of time their evidence takes may be uncertain.

It is not always possible to be given an exact time that you will be called in court.

Speak to the counsel assisting the coroner as they may be able to tell you if there will be any delays and what approximate time you will be called into the courtroom.

Witnesses are also sometimes allowed to sit in the courtroom and listen to the hearing.

The counsel assisting the coroner will tell you whether you can sit in the courtroom or not.

When you enter the courtroom

When you walk into the courtroom, the court officer will ask you how you would like to be sworn in, this is also known as being affirmed.

‘Sworn in’ means you agree to tell the truth to the court.

You can choose to either:

  • swear on the Bible – which means you say ‘so help me God’ after the court officer asks whether you promise to tell the truth
  • give an affirmation – which means you say ‘I do’ after the court officer asks whether you promise to tell the truth.

Giving evidence in an inquest

You should do all of the following:

  • stay relaxed and calm
  • tell the coroner if you need a break
  • listen carefully
  • ask for an explanation if you do not understand a question or cannot hear a question
  • speak clearly and slowly
  • be careful not to leave anything out when giving your answer
  • ask the coroner if you are unsure or need advice.

When you are finished your evidence, the coroner will tell you that you can leave the courtroom. You may be allowed to stay and listen to other witnesses if the coroner says so.

If the coroner decides they want you to come back and give more evidence, you will be asked to return to court to be a witness.

Witnesses are not informed when the coroner will give their decision. 

Counsel and family members are told and the findings are published on Department of Justice website.

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Last updated: 27 June 2017