Being required as a witness
Before the inquest, court staff or the investigating police officer contact you to tell you that you’re required as a witness.
You then receive written notice of the time and date you need to attend court. If possible, they attempt to accommodate your work or family commitments.
The request to attend the inquest to give evidence as a witness is a court order that you must comply with unless you have a reasonable excuse.
If you fail to attend, a warrant for your arrest may be issued to bring you to court to give evidence.
Your role at the inquest
Bring a copy of the statement you provided to the investigating police officer or the coroner. Following is the usual process for giving evidence in an inquest:
- You will need to wait outside the courtroom until you’re called, as witnesses aren’t usually allowed in the courtroom before they give evidence. If there are unexpected delays, you may need to wait some time.
- Usually, you can speak to the lawyer assisting the coroner before you enter the courtroom to give your evidence.
- Once you’re needed, your name will be called and you’ll be asked to enter the courtroom. Bow to the coroner as you enter.
- You’ll then be directed to the witness box where the coroner will ask if you prefer to take an oath on the bible or an affirmation.
- Once you’ve taken an oath or affirmation, the lawyer assisting the coroner will ask questions. If you’ve provided a statement, you’ll usually be shown a copy of that statement and you may refer to it while giving evidence.
- Other parties or their lawyers may then ask questions. Sometimes the coroner will also ask questions. Refer to the coroner as ‘Your Honour’ if you speak to them directly. The length of your evidence will depend on the circumstances.
- When all parties have finished asking questions, the coroner will excuse you and you can leave the court. Alternatively, you can stay for the rest of the inquest if you wish.
If you’re required to attend court to give evidence, you’re paid witness expenses. A set scale of fees determines the amount paid to witnesses.
If you have queries about the payment of witness expenses, contact the investigating police officer or Coroners Court.
Witnesses may have a lawyer represent them at the inquest if they wish.
Before attending court, you may wish to get legal advice about inquests and whether you should obtain legal representation.
Note: The Coroners Court doesn’t provide legal representation or legal advice to witnesses appearing at an inquest.