Giving evidence may be an unfamiliar and daunting experience. Neither the judge nor the legal advisers expect you to be a polished “performer”, nor to be able to remember every piece of information without referring to your notes. Although cross-examination may feel like an attack on your evidence or your recollection, you should not feel that your ability or fitness as a health professional is being personally impugned. In most cases, your evidence will not be the subject of dispute, but will play a part in the wider issue under determination.
In most cases you may have a brief conference with the barrister beforehand.
Observing the following hints can make your experience as a witness easier and smoother.
- Listen carefully to each question. If unsure of a question, ask for it to be repeated.
- Do not volunteer information beyond that necessary to answer the question. If additional information or an expanded answer is required, the barrister will ask further questions.
- If you are asked to give an opinion, confine it to your field of special expertise. If you are asked a question that is outside your area of expertise, you should state that this is the case.
- Do not display irritation at the questions asked. In cross- examination, a barrister may attempt to impugn or cast doubt on your evidence. The best response is to stay calm and composed; a display of irritation will tend to devalue your evidence and provoke a more extensive cross-examination.
- Try to explain evidence in lay terms where possible.
- Be objective and impartial.