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Witnesses

Witnesses attend court and testify. They give a promise to the court, called an oath, which may be made on the Bible, a holy book of their own faith, or with an affirmation (promise) to tell the truth about the facts of the case as they know them.

Children under 14 make a promise to tell the truth. Either Crown counsel and/or Defence counsel can call witnesses to the witness stand to give evidence. The judge may also require someone to be a witness in court, but this is rare.

A witness who testifies in a proceeding has the right not to have any incriminating evidence that she or he gives used against her or himself in any other proceedings. Witnesses are not allowed to view the trial until they have finished testifying and have been excused, so that their testimony is not influenced by hearing what other witnesses say in court. If you have questions about this, talk to Crown counsel.

Witnesses are not allowed to watch the preliminary hearing or trial until they have finished testifying. This precaution is to ensure that witness testimony is not influenced by hearing what other witnesses say in court.

If you are testifying in a preliminary hearing, it is likely that you will be required to testify at the trial and, therefore, will not be permitted to watch the rest of the preliminary hearing after your testimony finishes. You may check with Crown counsel to confirm the situation in each individual case.

No one should tell a witness what anyone else says about the events, as that can influence a witness' memory, too. Therefore, if you have been watching a preliminary hearing or trial, you should not tell any of the witnesses what happened until that witness has finished testifying and been excused by the court. If the matter is a preliminary hearing, you may not tell the witness anything about what occurred before the witness’s testimony unless Crown counsel confirms that the witness will not be required at the trial.

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