Giving evidence - Criminal trials
You do not have to give evidence unless you are raising self-defence or provocation.
Sometimes it is better to not give evidence. If the prosecution have not established the elements of the offence, they can’t use your own evidence to help their case.
Sometimes you will need to give evidence. If the prosecution put forward a reasonable case, you may need to tell your version of events to help convince the magistrate to find you not guilty.
If you choose to give evidence, you will usually be the first defence witness. After that, you can call your witnesses and ask them questions, and they will then also be cross-examined by the prosecution.
Questioning your own witnesses
- Be polite and formal and address each witness by their surname, even if you know them well.
- Don’t ask leading questions. These are questions that suggest the answer. You cannot say 'It was raining, wasn’t it?', as this suggests it was raining. You should instead ask, 'What was the weather like?'
- Try to use questions that start with who, what, where, when or how.
- Don’t ask the witness to give their opinion about the evidence, unless they are an expert in the area.
Tendering documents, photographs and objects
Tendering evidence is when you ask the court to consider a document, photograph or other object as part of the evidence in your case. To tender an item, you must:
- have the prior agreement of the prosecution before you ask the court to receive it in evidence, or
- call the person who prepared the document, took the photograph, or owned or had the object, as a witness to identify it and talk about it, before it is tendered in evidence.
After the prosecutor has cross-examined your witness, you can ask the witness some more questions. This is only to clarify any answers or evidence given by that witness in cross-examination. You cannot raise new issues or information if the witness was not asked about those matters by the prosecutor.