Before your court appearance
Receiving your court date
If you are called to be a witness in a serious criminal matter, you will be given a document known as a summons or subpoena by the police. It will tell you the date you must come to court.
If you can’t attend court on the date you have been given, you must phone the prosecutor immediately to discuss. Court dates can be difficult to change, so you will need a very good reason why you can’t make it.
If you need to make travel and accommodation arrangements you should phone the prosecution travel officer at least two weeks before your court date. Find out more information on claiming expenses and loss of wages.
How long you will be in court
You must remain at the court from the time stated on your summons or subpoena. The prosecutor can arrange with the court for you to attend at a certain time. You can leave the court once you have finished giving your evidence.
You may be asked to meet with the prosecutor or Witness Assistance Service (WAS) before court for a meeting. This is called a proofing meeting and will prepare you for court.
The proofing meeting will:
- give you information about the court process
- introduce you to the prosecutor and assigned WAS officer
- make sure your witness statements are true and correct
- clarify anything else you don’t understand
- assess whether you are a vulnerable witness.
Proofing meetings are normally held at either the Director of Public Prosecution’s office, or the court.
If you live remotely
If you live remotely, any of the following may happen:
- travel arrangements will be made for you
- the prosecutor or WAS officer will come to you
- the meeting will take place over a video link or phone.
You can ask to have another support person in the meeting, but you can’t have another witness from the same case. Witnesses are not allowed to discuss evidence with each other.
Before your court date you should also:
- tell your employer you can’t come to work that day – find out more about claiming loss of wages
- arrange a babysitter as there are no childcare facilities at court
- find out how to get there on public transport, or where you can park your car
- tell the prosecutor or WAS officer if you have any health issues that may affect you during court
- get a good night’s sleep and don’t drink or take drugs the night before.
Support services for witnesses
The Witness Assistance Service (WAS) can help you if you are called to be a witness in a court case.
They can do all of the following:
- help you understand how the courts work
- show you the court before the case
- be with you in court while you wait to give evidence
- tell you about welfare, health, counselling and legal services available to victims of crime
- tell you about financial help you may be able to get
- tell you how to claim witness expenses
- arrange an interpreter.
You should also tell them if you have any concerns for your safety or think you are a vulnerable witness.