The prosecution case - Criminal trials

The prosecution presents its case first. After the prosecutor has finished asking questions of their witnesses, you may cross-examine the witness. The prosecutor may then re-examine the witnesses, to clarify any answers the witness gave during cross-examination.

The Prosecutor asks questions and the answers given by the prosecution witness in court becomes their evidence. This is called examination-in-chief. The questions are not evidence - only answers. 

You should listen carefully and make notes about the things you disagree with and want to raise with each witness. You can do this when it is your turn to question them. 

If you did a video record of interview with the police, it is likely to be played in court and will form part of the prosecution evidence.

Who has the burden of proof?

In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The prosecution must prove all elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.

Generally, you do not need to prove your innocence. You just need to raise sufficient doubt about the prosecution case against you.

If you raise a defence such as self-defence or provocation, you need to present sufficient evidence to raise it as an issue. Then the prosecution carries the burden of disproving your defence. It must disprove your defence beyond reasonable doubt.

Sometimes the onus of proof is reversed. For example,  where the offence includes a presumed intent, such as a presumed intent to sell or supply drugs. In this example, you would carry the burden of proving that you did not intend to sell or supply the drugs. You would have to prove this on the balance of probabilities.

Do I need to give an opening address?

Some magistrates will ask if you or the prosecutor want to give an opening address before any evidence is called. This is an opportunity for both you and the prosecution to say what evidence you intend to have and what issues the magistrate will need to decide. The prosecution will start and give a brief outline of what the prosecution case will be.

You can then give an overview of the case from your perspective, if you wish. You don't have to give an opening address if you don't want.


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.