Witness Tips - Day of Court

Preparing for court may feel scary and confusing.  These are perfectly normal feelings to have if you are going to testify.  Even professionals who testify often tell us they are anxious about giving evidence.  Here are some tips on how to help you prepare for the day.

Before You Leave Home

  • On the morning of court, try to have a healthy breakfast if you can. tooltipSome people find it hard to eat when they feel nervous or anxious.
  • Bring some water and pack some snacks or lunch. tooltipIt is difficult to know how long you may have to wait for your turn to testify and the food you like may be difficult to find.
  • Prepare for any medical needs you may have. tooltipFor example, bring any medications you would normally use during the day.
  • Pack a book or other activity to keep you busy while you wait.
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable, clean and tidy. tooltipRemember, the court is a formal place and it shows respect to look your best.
  • Bring your subpoena with you to court.  It will tell you where to go when you arrive at the courthouse. tooltipIf there is an emergency reason you cannot attend court, tell the Crown prosecutor's office and the investigating officer as soon as you can.
  • The courtroom you are scheduled to give evidence, may have other cases. tooltipYour room may change, or you may be required to come back the following day.

Bring Along a Support Person

  • Bring a support person if you want.  It is best to bring someone who is not testifying. tooltipPeople who are testifying are not allowed to be together. This way they do not talk to each other about the case, or hear each other's testimony.
  • The support person can be your court preparation worker, or a staff member from the Victim Witness Assistance Program.

Arriving at Court

  • Try to arrive at least 30 minutes early. tooltipBeing at court early will help you feel more confident.
  • Be respectful and polite to everyone at court.
  • Meet the Crown prosecutor and/or police officer in the pre-arranged room or tell the Court Officer when you arrive and ask for directions. tooltipThere are many cases at court on the same day. The room for your case will be chosen on the day of court.
  • Wait near the assigned courtroom or waiting area until your name is called. tooltipWitnesses are usually not permitted in the courtroom until they are needed to give their testimony so that their evidence is not affected by what other witnesses told the court.
  • If you are afraid of some of the other witnesses, tell the lawyer or court officer. tooltipThey can make arrangements to move you to a safe area.
  • Remember to use the washroom before you testify.

Court Rules

Here are some special rules people must follow in the courthouse.

  • 🚫 No weapons or sharp objects like scissors or pocket knife
  • 🚫 Hats must be removed except religious head coverings
  • 🚫 Sunglasses must be removed except for medical reasons
  • 🚫 No recording or taking photos
  • 🚫 Do not chew gum or eat in the court room
  • ✅ Water is allowed in the courtroom
  • ✅ Your cell phone is turned off
  • ✅ Store your earbuds
  • ✅ Stop talking after the judge enters the courtroom
  • ✅ You must stand up when the judge enters and leaves the courtroom

Note: Many of the Canadian courts have a Victim Witness Assistance Program.  You can check our Provincial and Territorial Links for services available or call a courthouse in your area.

The Justice Canada Victim Services Directory has links to many services across Canada for victims of crime.  You can click on this link to find a program in your community.