Getting ready for court

The thought of going to court and giving evidence in court may make some people feel nervous or anxious.

Planning your day at court

Make sure you are looking after yourself by eating well and getting enough rest. The court is a formal environment. The information on this page will help you prepare for your role as a witness.

Some hints for planning your day at court

  • Decide and prepare what you are going to wear to court before the court date. It's generally best to wear conservative clothes. Make sure that whatever you wear is comfortable, as you will probably be there for most of the day. It may also be useful to bring a jacket or a jumper as some courtrooms can be cold.

  • It may be a good idea to plan how you are going to get to court. For example, if you are taking public transport, check timetables, possible routes, so that you can get there on time and have time to find the courtroom.

  • It's helpful to have a support person, such as a friend or family member go to court with you.

  • You may think about meeting with the police or prosecutor if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Pack a bag to take with you to court. In the bag have something to read or do while you are waiting at court. You may want to take your own food and drink. Sometimes it can be helpful if you take a small item with special meaning for you to court, such as a piece of jewellery or a letter from someone close to help make you feel more secure.

  • It can be good to have friends or family with you while you are waiting at court and to have things to do while you are waiting, such as games and magazines.

Your evidence

Before you go to court, it is helpful to read your statement again and be familiar with it. Think about the events and try to remember details such as dates, times, descriptions, actions and exact words used. Do not discuss your evidence with anyone else.

Be prepared to speak loudly and clearly. The microphone on the witness box does not always amplify; sometimes it is only used to record proceedings.

You cannot be advised to what to say at court. Your role is to tell the truth as best as you can.

Costs

Expenses are paid to witnesses to attend court to give evidence. This can help with travel costs, loss of earnings, child care and meals/snacks while you are in court. Speak to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) about how to claim for these allowances.

Meeting with the Public Prosecutor

In criminal court cases, it is the state (not the victim) that prosecutes the accused in court.

You are likely to meet with a lawyer who is preparing your case for the hearing, such as a police prosecutor (in the Local Court) or a lawyer from the ODPP (most usually in the higher courts).

Before the hearing or trial the prosecutor will probably want to talk to you about your statement. If you don't have a copy of your statement ask the police or the prosecutor to give you a copy well before you go to court. You are not allowed to see statements made by other witnesses or to enter court while their evidence is being given until after you have given your evidence.

If you know other witnesses in the case it is important you do not discuss your evidence with them.

Keep in touch with the police or the prosecutor to discuss any concerns you have about the case. You have the right to be kept informed about the progress of your matter, so make arrangements with the police officer or the prosecutor responsible for your case about how often you should contact them. 

Checklist: things to do before court

  • Don't forget to tell the police, the police prosecutor, or the ODPP if you change your address or telephone number or if you are going away for more than a few days.

  • If you are a witness, it is important for you to meet the lawyer prosecuting the case, preferably before the day at court. The prosecutor will probably want to talk to you about your statement beforehand.              

  • If you don't have a copy of your statement, ask the police or the solicitor from the ODPP to give you a copy well before you go to court. You are not allowed to see statements made by other witnesses or to enter court while their evidence is being given until after you have given your evidence.

  • Read your statement over a few times before you go to court. Normally you won't be able to read from your written statement when giving evidence although you may be asked to refer to it in some circumstances.              

  • Visit a courthouse before the case to see what a court looks like or see other cases that are open to the public and how witnesses give evidence. You might want to do this with your support person.

Your time at court (PDF, 111Kb)
This information sheet provides hints for planning your day at court.

Court support

Court support for all victims and witnesses

It can be good to have friends or family to travel with you to and from court, to wait with you at court and to have lunch or morning tea with you. Several courts have witness rooms where you can wait. Speak to the police officer, prosecutor or witness/victim support service about the availability of these rooms.

You can have someone with you while you give evidence at court. This is known as court support. Court support can be provided by a number of services and victim support groups depending on your needs. A friend or family member can also provide court support as long as they are not a witness in the case. The Judge will decide where they sit so that you can see them. They cannot help you to answer the questions but it may be comforting to have them near you.

You can speak to the prosecutor and the Witness Assistance Service at the ODPP about the role of your support person.

Court support for victims with specific needs

See Specific needs page for information about support available to those victims with specific needs.

Court support - the ODPP's Witness Assistance Service

The Witness Assistance Service (WAS) is part of the ODPP and is staffed by professionally qualified workers. The ODPP is the independent prosecuting authority of the NSW Government and prosecutes all serious offences in NSW.

For more information about the WAS visit the ODPP website.