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Top Ten Tips for Witnesses

  1. Prepare. Make sure that you read and re-read your statement and the key documents in the bundle before you take the witness stand. This will remind you of the events; it will also mean that you will be less likely to contradict yourself inadvertently.
     
  2. Dress smartly,  and show respect to the Tribunal. 
     
  3. Tell the truth. You know what the truth is; the judge is trying to work it out. If you stick with what you remember, the judge will find it easier to find in your favour.
     
  4. Answer the questions put to you.  Try not to stray too far from the question, as you will seem evasive. You may also invite other lines of enquiry for which you (and your legal team) are not prepared. If you think that the question is inappropriate, your barrister will object to it (but note that lawyers standing up and shouting 'objection' really only happens on television).
     
  5. If you don't understand a question, or if you don't hear a question properly, ask for the question to be clarified or repeated.
     
  6. Try not to speculate on what you might have done. If you can't remember something, say so. If you can remember it, don't try to hide behind a forgetful memory.
     
  7. If you feel compelled to answer a question in a way that you don't feel accurately represents what happened (which can often happen with 'yes or no' questions), expand on your answer to clarify or qualify your answer. 
     
  8. If you think that a document backs up your answer, refer to it and your legal team will find it for you. If you are told that a document contradicts your answer, ask to be shown it. You may have a different interpretation of it than that of the person asking the question. 
     
  9. Don't speak too quickly: the judge is trying to make notes of your answers. Speak clearly and remember to breathe. The judge, the other side and your own legal team need to hear your answers. 
     
  10. Don't argue with the person asking the questions. You should pause before answering and you should direct all of your answers to the judge. This will feel unnatural, as it means turning away from the person who has asked you the question. Try pointing your feet towards the judge. This will ensure that you are naturally going to face them, rather than the other side's barrister.

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