Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 554
WitnessesRegion: Ontario Answer # 554
Sometimes witnesses are needed to testify at a trial. There are three important things to do if you want to have someone testify at your trial. First, you should decide if the witness is necessary to prove your case. Second, you will need to make sure that the person is going to come to the trial. And third, you should prepare your witness for testifying in court.
Deciding on a witness
Well before the date of the trial you should meet with the person who you want to testify at your trial. You should go over what it is the witness will say. Ask the person questions that you would need to ask at the trial. Think about what kind of impression the person will make. Will the person get too nervous to remember things? Does the person stick to the same story, or does the story change? If you think that the person will not make a good impression you should not have them testify at your trial.
Arranging for a witness to attend court
If you think the witness is necessary for your case and will make a good impression, you should arrange for them to come to the trial. The easiest way to get a witness to come is to ask the person to come voluntarily. If a witness does not want to testify, or if that person cannot take a day off from work, you should ask the staff at the Small Claims Court for a special form called a Summons to Witness, which is an official request by the court. You will then have to deliver the Summons to Witness form to the person you want as a witness, at least 10 days before the trial date, together with attendance money (which includes a witness fee and travel expenses).
Anyone who receives a Summons to Witness must attend the trial and their employer must allow them to go to court during work hours. You will have to pay a fee for the witness to attend the trial, as well as pay the witness’s travelling expenses. If you win your case, you may get these expenses back from the other side.
Preparing a witness for trial
Before the trial date, you should spend some time preparing the witness for trial. You should go over the facts that the witness knows and make sure that they can testify to those facts. You may want to practice with the witness as if it were the trial. Try asking the witness questions and having them give answers as if you are in front of a judge.
You should also practice asking the witness questions as if you were on the other side of the case. At the trial, the other side will be allowed to ask your witness questions. They will try to make the witness look unreliable and to bring out facts that hurt your case. You should prepare your witness for this so that he or she is not surprised at the trial. You should make sure your witness understands that they must always tell the truth in court. It is illegal to tell the witness what to say or to ask them to withhold the truth.
If you are a plaintiff or a defendant, usually you will be the main witness for your own case. This means you will need to go into the witness box and swear to tell the truth. Then, you will need to explain your side of the issue. Because you will not ask yourself questions, you should practice what you will say to the judge when you are testifying.
Also, prepare yourself to answer the questions the other side may ask you. If you do not understand a question that has been asked by the other party or by the judge, just say so. You are entitled to have a question repeated and re-worded so that you will understand it. Remember that you must always tell the truth in court.
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