20 tips for victims and witnesses
when testifying
Always tell the truth. Telling the truth means that you describe everything what happened, including all details you remember. That is the role of the witness.
Carefully listen to questions asked.  Before answering, wait until a complete question is asked.
Take time to think over the question and your answer.
Answer slowly using short sentences and clear terms.
Do not be afraid to tell everything you know with all details. All information provided may turn out to be important for the court. If you feel you need to use swear words to describe what happened, since the offender used such words when perpetrating the crime, you should do it.
Describe what you are asked about only. Do not talk about things you do not know about, only to satisfy the person asking question.
Do not answer questions you do not fully understand. You may ask a person to repeat his/her question or provide explanation. You may say for instance: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can you repeat, please?/Can you explain the question to me?”
If you do not know how to answer a question, you should say ‘I don’t know’. Remember, your goal is to tell everything you know about the incident. Do not invent things just to say something. Do not describe what wpresumably happened or express your opinion. Tell what you have actually seen, heard or know for sure. Circulating rumours and gossips when testifying does not make sense, since they are useless for the court.
It may happen that the same question is asked more than once. Each time try to give the same answer.
It is natural that you may not remember all details or not be able to reconstruct precisely what happened. If it is so, stay calm and do not be afraid to say ‘I don’t remember’. It is normal that we forget things that happened in the past. This is how our memory works. This may also be related to the time factor (It happens that witnesses need to testify about events that took place several months or years before) and on top of that it is easy for us to remember unpleasant incidents.
If you are threatened, intimidated or someone attempts to attack you after you testified, notify the Police immediately. If someone threatened or intimidated you or tried to attack you before you testify, apart from reporting the fact to the Police, tell the court about it.
It is natural that you might be nervous, scared or about to cry. Testifying can make anyone nervous or scared. Talking about a crime or answering questions about what you have seen (or experienced) is unpleasant itself, since it reminds you about things you tend to forget or erase from your memory. It may happen that you burst into cry. Do not be ashamed. Everyone will understand, since many people react like that in the court.
If you feel exhausted or excessively nervous, you may ask for a break to use bathroom or to have a glass of water and paper tissue.
Do not be afraid of the offender and do not let the sight of him/her prevent you from testifying. Try not to look at the offender when answering questions. Focus on the person asking questions only. If you do not want the offender to be present in the court room when you testify, you can tell the judge about it. If the judge agrees, the defendant will be removed from the court room when you testify.
The witness is not accused of anything and has not committed any crime. It is the defendant who is suspected of committing a crime. The witness’s role is to provide information that might help the judge producing a fair verdict.
It is natural that during a trial you may hear or be asked about things bringing bitter feelings, for instance someone may question what you experienced. Remember that it might be a way for the defence attorney to defend his/her client.
Remember that you have no influence on the court verdict. Do the right thing: tell everything you know about the crime. Remember that it is the judge who finally decides about the sentence.
If the defendant is acquitted, this does not mean that the judge does not believe what you testified during the trial. The fact that someone is acquitted does not necessarily mean the person is innocent. It means that evidence collected was insufficient for the court to sentence the offender.
It is possible that after you testify the proceedings will continue and another witness will be asked to testify. In such a case, you may stay in the court room and listen to the proceedings or leave the court. You cannot discuss your testimony with others, especially if those people are witnesses still awaiting to testify.
After all witnesses have testified, the judge informs people present in the court room when the sentence is to be announced. If you want to and can, you may be present when the judge reads out the sentence, but it is not mandatory.