The day of the hearing

You should always plan to arrive a little earlier. You may wish to check with the party calling you as a witness as to the time  you should arrive. Find your way to the courtroom or hearing chamber here.

You should bring a jacket or a sweater, as you may feel cold in the courtroom. You may also wish to bring some water in a bottle or a tumbler, to drink as you may be called on to give evidence for a period of time.

Bring documents that will identify who you are (for instance, your NRIC or passport).

Witnesses will usually wait in a special room called a "witness room". You may sometimes have to wait a while before your turn to give evidence. It may be that the witness giving evidence before you is taking longer than expected.

You must not discuss anything you said or heard in court with other witnesses who have yet to give their evidence. This includes raising it on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook.

When it is your turn to give evidence, the party who wishes to call you will enter the witness room and let you know. You will then be brought into the courtroom. There, you will be shown to the "witness stand" (or the "witness box").

In the witness box

Trials in court are conducted in English.

You may be able to speak some English. However, you may have some problems understanding all of the words.

It is important that you understand all the questions that you are asked in court. This will help you answer these questions accurately. You should not answer a question you do not understand.

If you need an interpreter, let the party who is calling you as a witness know as soon as possible. This party can then make arrangements for an interpreter to be available on the day you need to give evidence in court.

When you enter the witness box, you will be required to take an oath or affirmation. This is a promise to tell the truth. If you are a Christian or a Catholic, taking the oath requires you to hold the Bible while swearing to tell the truth. In all other cases, you will make an affirmation instead. In either case, you are to raise your right hand.

When giving evidence, you will need to answer questions from the Prosecutor and the Defence Counsel. You may also need to answer questions from the Judge. Regardless of who asks the questions, your answers are to be addressed to the Judge. Address the Judge as "Your Honour".

There are three stages in the giving of evidence from the witness box.

    1. Examination-in-chief. This is the first stage. The party who asked you to come to court (the Prosecutor or Defence Counsel[1]) will ask you questions. These questions tend to be open-ended, and usually start with "Who", "What", "When", "Why", and "How". You may also be referred to various documents, and asked questions about these documents. The purpose of examination-in-chief is for you to tell the court what you know about the case in your own words.

    2. Cross-examination. This is the second stage, where the other party will ask you questions. These questions are usually not open-ended, and tend to be more direct. You may also be referred to various documents (not necessarily those you were referred to during examination-in-chief) and asked questions about these documents. The purpose of cross-examination is to test the truth of your evidence. When the Prosecutor or the Defence Counsel says "I put it to you that ...", he is simply putting his case to you. You should not get upset by this. It is part of the process in court. If you disagree with any "put", you should say so. If you wish to elaborate, you can ask the Judge for permission to do so.  

    3. Re-examination. This is the final stage. The Prosecutor or Defence Counsel[2] who asked you questions in examination-in-chief  may ask you some questions to clarify matters arising from the evidence you gave during cross-examination.


When giving evidence in court:

    1. remain calm and polite. It can be stressful to be a witness, but try not to get upset or become flustered when you are giving evidence. If you do get upset, ask the Judge for time to calm down.

    2. speak slowly and clearly, so that your evidence is understood by everyone. There is no need to rush through your evidence.

    3. always direct your answers to the Judge.

    4. do not guess. Be sure that your answers are based on what you actually saw or heard, and not based on what you think probably happened (or what someone else told you).

    5. you should say "I do not know", if you do not know the answer.

    6. you should say "I am not sure", if you are not sure.

    7. you should say "I cannot remember", if you cannot remember.

    8. you can ask for a question to be repeated if you did not hear the question clearly.

    9. you can ask for a question to be rephrased using simpler terms if you do not understand the question.

    10. you can ask for a question to be broken up into parts if there are many parts to the question and you are not sure what exactly is being asked.

    11. you can ask for words or terms to be explained if you do not understand them.

    12. do not argue with the party asking you the questions or speak over the other person.

    13. spell any names or unusual terms.

    14. you may ask the Judge for more time to read a document that you have been referred to, before you answer any questions about the document.

    15. do not nod or shake your heard, as your evidence is being recorded. You should say either "Yes" or "No" instead.

    16. do not joke. Answer the question and then stop. Do not give unnecessary or irrelevant information. The Judge is interested only in the facts.

    17. please make sure your mobile-device is in "silent" mode. Your mobile-device should not ring while you are giving evidence.

    18. tell the truth. It is your duty to tell the truth. If you lie in court, you will be charged for telling lies in Court. You may then be fined or imprisoned.

If you are asked for an opinion on something, and you are not in a position to offer one, you can say "I am not able to give an opinion on that".

If you need a break after giving evidence for some time, you can let the Judge know. If you do not feel well, you should let the Judge know as well.

After giving evidence

When you have completed giving evidence, you may leave the witness box with the permission of the Judge. The Judge may, however, order that you be recalled as a witness, if necessary. This may take place sometime after you first gave evidence.

Ask the party who called you as a witness about expenses. You may be allowed to claim a reasonable sum to recover your expenses of going to, remaining at, and returning from court. Click here for more information on claims, and access the claim forms here.



[1] Or the accused if the accused is not represented.



[2] Or the accused if the accused is not represented.



Last updated on: 8/4/2020 5:23 PM


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