If you are needed as a witness in a court case, you will be sent a summons or a subpoena.
Court dates can change at short notice and you may need to go more than once.
If you are a witness, you are not allowed in the courtroom before you give your evidence.
Services can help you get ready to go to court and support you on the day.
If the case goes to court and you are required as a witness:
- your summons or subpoena will tell you which court you will need to attend and when
- you may need to attend court more than once
- it is possible that a hearing may be postponed (adjourned) to another day.
The police or the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) can tell you when you will be needed at court. They will do their best to let you know if the hearing has been postponed, but sometimes changes happen at short notice.
It is a good idea to check the court details the day before you are required to be there.
If the accused person is an adult, you will need to know their name. If the accused person is a young person, their name is not made public. You can contact the police officer in charge of the prosecution to find out about court details.
You can find out more about how to get information about the court case.
You do not need a lawyer for the court case
You do not need to have your own lawyer in court. The State of Victoria has prosecutors from Police Prosecutions or the Office of Public Prosecutions that handle criminal cases.
The prosecutor does not work as your personal lawyer. They work on behalf of the people of Victoria.
You might need your own lawyer if you want to apply for financial assistance or compensation. This is separate to the criminal case.
You can find information about how to find a lawyer under 'Legal services' on the Get help page.
Before the day
- Check the court dates as they can change at short notice.
- Make sure you know where you need to go and give yourself plenty of time to get there.
You can find locations for courts in Victoria on their websites:
You can find out more about the different courts in Victoria.
It is also important to make any arrangements you need to so that you can be free to attend court for the whole day. You may have to wait for some time before giving evidence.
- let your workplace know that you will need to go to court if you would otherwise be working that day
- organise for someone to look after any children you care for
- organise a support person to come with you if you wish.
If you are going to be a witness, you need to bring:
If you have any questions or concerns about giving evidence, or you do not have your statement you can contact the person in charge of prosecuting the case.
This may be:
- the police officer in charge of prosecuting the case, sometimes called the police informant
- a prosecutor from the Office of Public Prosecutions for more serious cases.
Going to court
Most court cases are heard in 'open court' which means anyone can attend the hearing.
However, if you are needed as a witness, you will not be able to be in the courtroom before you give your evidence. Afterwards, you may be able to listen to the rest of the hearing.
Some cases (or parts of the case) may be closed to the public because the court thinks it is necessary to protect someone like a vulnerable witness or a child witness.
If the court is 'closed', only those people who need to be there (like the accused person, the prosecutor and the witness) can be in the court. These people are sometimes called parties to the proceeding.
It is a good idea to ask whether this might happen in your case. You can talk to:
- the Office of Public Prosecutions if the case is being heard in the County or Supreme Court
- the police officer in charge of prosecuting the case in the Magistrates’ Court.
Support to go to court
Going to court as a victim or witness can be a challenging experience but help and support are available.
Victims Assistance Program
A support worker from the Victims Assistance Program can:
- explain the court process
- help you prepare to go to court
- help you write a Victim Impact Statement.
Call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817.
A trained volunteer can:
- show you around the court before the hearing
- be with you on the day to offer support.
Victims and Witness Assistance Service (Office of Public Prosecutions)
If your case is being handled by the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Victims and Witness Assistance Service can:
- give you information about the progress of your case
- explain the court process
- support you through meetings with the prosecution team
- help you with arrangements for being in court
- connect you with other support services.
Child Witness Service
A team of qualified social workers, psychologists and practitioners, who can:
- prepare children and young people for the role of being a witness and support them when they give evidence
- liaise with police and prosecution teams and provide case updates
- support child witnesses and their families throughout the criminal proceedings
- provide referrals for child witnesses to community agencies following the end of the court case if they need ongoing support.