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Adult Witnesses

Direct victims of a crime are often called as witnesses against the accused, even if they have already given a written or video-taped statement to police. If you are to be called as a witness for the Crown, you will be contacted by Crown counsel.

You have been asked to be a witness because you have important knowledge about the case. Being a witness is not difficult. All you need is a little preparation and the willingness to honestly answer questions about what you know.

What to do if you Are Subpoenaed as a Witness

If your testimony is required, you will receive a notice or subpoena laying out where and when you are required to appear. You must obey this notice.

Did You Know?
If you are employed, your employer cannot intimidate you or coerce you not to testify, or give you any financial or other penalty or otherwise discriminate against you because you were absent from work to appear in Court as a witness in a trial.

When you receive a subpoena or notice requiring you to attend, you should call the Witness Notifier in the Crown counsel office or the lawyer who has sent the subpoena to confirm that you have received it. Also, let him or her know of any problems you have with attendance on that date and any special assistance or testimonial accommodations that you will need. Contact information for the Witness Notifier should be on the notice you receive, but, can also be found in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory or through Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867).

Before your court date, again contact the Witness Notifier or the lawyer who subpoenaed you to make sure the case is going ahead as scheduled. Court dates may change, so make sure that the person calling you as a witness has your current address and telephone number.

On some less serious matters, witnesses for the Crown may meet with Crown counsel only on the day of the trial or preliminary hearing. In other more serious and complex cases, however, Crown will contact witnesses ahead of time to meet and review testimony and statements. In these cases you are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns you have about your testimony, your safety while at court, any scheduling conflicts, any special accommodations you may need, such as translation services or wheelchair access, or any concerns you have about the presence of the accused, members of the public or media.

Criminal Court Lists

The Province of British Columbia provides Criminal Court Lists, for Adult and Supreme Court, which show scheduled court appearances for the current day and list court results for the past five days. However, these are provided for general information only. If the case you are a witness for is scheduled on a certain day but you can’t find it on these lists, you should contact the court registry. Cases that involve accused persons under the age of eighteen or which have publication bans may not appear on these lists. Also, this list may not show all changes and should not be a substitute for confirming with Crown counsel, the Witness Notifier or the lawyer who has subpoenaed you that the case is still happening on the same date. This is especially important if you are travelling from another community to attend a trial.

Travelling to Court

If you are a witness and are required to travel to Court from another community, please contact the Witness Notifier for help with travel arrangements. In some cases, witnesses may be able to claim expenses for travel and child care, if needed. To find out more about these claims, you can contact the Witness Notifier in Crown counsel’s office (listed in the Blue Pages of your telephone directory or through Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867). A contact number is also usually on the subpoena or notice from the Crown’s office. More information about traveling to trial can be found, here.

Going to Court as a Witness

Try to be at court with lots of time to spare, as the lawyer may want to ask you some questions. Bring the subpoena or notice with you as well as any other documents you have been asked to bring to court. You can ask for these items to be returned to you when the proceedings have finished. It may take a long time (months or even over a year, depending on the case) for these documents to be given back to you, so you may want to make copies of anything you may need in the meantime.

Before you go to court, take some time to think about what happened during and right after the offence. Try to remember details, like:

  • what day and time it was
  • who else was there
  • who you talked to
  • how far away you were from the event when it happened
  • anything else that might be important.

If you made notes when the crime happened, bring them to court with you. Tell Crown counsel (or your Victim Service Worker) that you have notes. If you signed a witness statement when the police investigated the offence, Crown counsel may review this with you and you may request a copy of that statement. Be sure that your memory is based on what you actually saw and heard and not based on what you think probably happened. Don’t guess. If you have already testified at the preliminary hearing, you may read the court record or transcript of your testimony.

Although you must attend Court at the time listed in the subpoena or notice, you will have to wait outside the courtroom until it is your turn to testify. You may ask a friend or relative to wait with you and it’s a good idea to bring a book or some activity with you to make the waiting easier. As a witness, you must not watch the trial or speak with other witnesses about your testimony or theirs, or the evidence in the case, until after you have given your testimony and been excused by the court. You must not discuss the case with witnesses who have not yet testified, even if you have been excused by the court. This is standard in all trials.

Important Reading

  •, a site for youth preparing for court that is also helpful for adult witnesses.

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