Giving evidence at court

Last updated: 7 August 2017

Giving evidence

When it's your turn to give evidence, a court official will call your name and show you to the witness box in the courtroom.

Your most important task as a witness is to tell the court the truth about what you know. All the people involved in bringing this case to court will understand that it may be a difficult time for you. If you've any concerns or fears about coming to court or giving evidence please talk to them. They're there to help you.

In the courtroom

Before you give your evidence, you will be asked to either:

  • repeat a religious oath (the court will take into account your religious beliefs), or
  • agree that you promise to tell the truth (called an affirmation)

One by one, witnesses give their evidence by telling the court what may have happened or what they may know.

Examination and cross-examination

The defence lawyers – as well as the Procurator Fiscal or Children's Reporter – will have a copy of any statement you made to the police.

They'll also have a copy of your 'precognition statement', if you were asked to give one.

'Precognition' is an interview of a witness by the procurator fiscal or defence lawyer(s) to help them prepare before the court case. You may also hear this referred to as a 'citation' asking you to attend a meeting – the statement taken at this meeting is called the 'precognition statement'. You must give a precognition statement if asked.

To help you give your evidence you'll be asked questions – this is also known as 'examination and cross-examination'. You'll be asked questions by:

  • the Procurator Fiscal, defence lawyers or the Children's Reporter (depending on what type of court case)
  • the judge or sheriff

They may ask you about:

  • something that may have happened to you or to someone else
  • something you may have seen or heard
You must answer the questions truthfully – if you don't, you could face criminal charges.

When giving your evidence:

  • listen carefully
  • say if you don't understand a question, don't know the answer or can't remember
  • speak slowly and clearly
  • take your time to answer – and if you think someone in the court hasn't understood your answer, let them know
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Giving evidence at court
Giving evidence