Top Tips for Giving Evidence in Court

 

From the outset of most cases, whether a personal injury claim (civil claim), family matter, or other dispute, we see our clients become increasingly nervous at the thought of going to trial.

In truth, the vast majority of cases are settled long before trial, so this should not be an alarming thought which could keep you back from taking your case to court.

If you prepare well enough, going to trial does not have to be a scary experience. There is rarely any high drama involved, especially when witnesses give straight forward and honest evidence.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to give evidence in court, following this handy guide may make the process much easier for you and leave you feeling well prepared.

Before Court

There is no need to memorise your evidence. This is not a memory test and shouldn’t sound rehearsed.

You may be giving evidence about something that happened a long time ago which could be difficult to remember.

Prior to you attending court, you will have been sent a copy of your statement. This will give you the chance to refresh your memory, leaving you feeling more prepared before you give evidence.

What Should I Wear?

We believe it makes a good impression to dress smart when speaking in court. You want to show that you’re serious about the matter and dressing smart is often a good way to reflect this.

This doesn’t mean you need designer or fancy clothes, you are ultimately not being judged by what you wear. However, a smart appearance can make a good impression to the judge.

The Lawyer’s Role

As the lawyers, we will have to prepare your statement, along with any evidence we need to show. It is our job to do that fairly so that your statement accurately reflects your evidence.

We cannot tell you what to say or coach you when giving evidence. Your statement needs to be true to yourself and what you have experienced.

This doesn’t mean you’re going in blindly though. We have lots of experience and are here to help you. Because of this we will often be able to advise you on what to expect if you do need to attend court.

The Judge’s Role

The judge’s job is not to intimidate you. They will be a very experienced lawyer whose role is to listen to your evidence.

When speaking, if you are honest, open and straightforward, the judge will respect and take your evidence into consideration.

Most importantly, don’t be rude, argumentative, or evasive with the judge. They will be studying the way in which you conduct yourself.

Although you will be asked questions by the lawyers, you must address your answers to the judge.

Your lawyers will advise you on how to address the judge. It is not too over complicated as the judge won’t mind being referred to (where appropriate) as “Sir”, “Ma’am” or “Your Honour”.

More importantly than anything though, you must treat the judge with respect. This applies for the lawyers on the other side too, even if you feel like they’re attempting to “get under your skin”.

Your Role

You should not feel pressure to win an argument when giving evidence in court. Your role is to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

You will have been called to court as you have evidence which could be used to help the case. So, all you need to do is help the judge by giving your evidence as truthfully as you can.

Make sure you listen carefully to the questions asked, and speak clearly when answering. Try to make your answers as straightforward as possible.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand or didn’t hear a question properly. You can simply ask for the question to be repeated.

You should be prepared to make sensible concessions if your evidence is shown to be inaccurate. Sometimes you can be giving evidence from an incident that happened years ago. So, there is nothing wrong with admitting that your memory is hazy or that you may have been mistaken.

Remember though, if you evidence is found to be inaccurate, the judge is unlikely to give any weight to it, if you continue to stick to your version of events.

“The Star Witness” Role

It is very rare for a case to be decided on the basis of one “star witness”, as the judge will still want to hear from both sides of the case.

Other evidence will also be taken into consideration, such as photographs, CCTV, documents, and experts’ reports.

So, if you are called as a witness, don’t feel like the weight of the case is on your shoulders.

Don’ts

You should never question the lawyer in an attempt to “take them on”. The judge is there to oversee court proceedings and make sure there are no bullying or intimidation tactics being used.

If the judge feels that a lawyer is being aggressive or unfair towards you, they will intervene and protect you. So, there is no need to give any attitude back to the lawyer.

Don’t attempt to work out whether your answer will help one side or another. We’ve said it a million times before, just be truthful.

All of these tips are here to help prepare you in the event of yourself being called to give evidence in court.

If we had to sum it up, we’d say; don’t panic, be truthful, and trust in your lawyers, we’re here to help you.

Mulderrigs, now a part of the Farleys Solicitors family, offer a full range of services for you, your family and your business. To speak to a specialist about a specific legal matter, get in touch with us today on 0800 0523 693 or contact us by email.