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If you saw or heard anything that is relevant to a court case you could be summoned as a witness to give evidence at the hearing of the matter. Likewise, if there is a witness who is relevant to your court case, you will need to summons them to appear at court. For the court summons form see the 'Forms' page.




For criminal matters, before you are summonsed it is likely that the police will ask you to come to a police station and take a statement from you as to what you saw or heard. That statement will be typed up and you will be asked to sign that statement declaring it to be true.

A person could  be called as either:

  • a witness (as to what they saw or heard)
  • or an expert who gives advice on a part of a case( eg a doctor or forensic scientist)

If you are a witness you will only be required to come to court if the accused is pleading not guilty or doesn’t agree with some of the information in a case.

By law, you must attend if you have been called as a witness. If you don’t, you can be fined or arrested.

Watch video clips

If you prefer to watch videos about going to court as a witness, go to the Director of Public Prosecutions website to view:

For more information on going to court as a witness, including the Witness Assistance Service go the Director of Public Prosecutions website.

Before your court appearance

Receiving your court date

If you are called to be a witness in a criminal matter you will be given a document known as a summons by the police. It will tell you the date you must come to court.

If you can’t attend court on the date you have been given, you must phone the prosecutor immediately to discuss. Court dates can be difficult to change, so you will need a very good reason why you can’t make it. If you don’t attend it is possible that a warrant could issue for your arrest.

If you need to make travel and accommodation arrangements you should phone the prosecution travel officer at least two weeks before your court date. Find out more information on claiming expenses and loss of wages.

If you are to be a witness in a civil matter it is up to the party wanting you to be at court to pay your reasonable expenses to get to court ( eg a taxi fare or if you are interstate your airfare and accommodation). It is up to the person who wants you at court to make the appropriate arrangements for you to be there.

How long you will be in court 

You must remain at the court from the time stated on your summons until the court tells you can leave.

In criminal matters the prosecutor/ defence counsel can arrange with the court for you to attend at a certain time. You can leave the court once you have finished giving your evidence.

In civil matters the person who has asked you to give evidence can try and arrange for you to give your evidence at the most convenient time for you however that will rely on how much time has been set aside for the hearing and whether the judge agrees to the timetable.

Proofing meeting

In criminal matters you may be asked to meet with the prosecutor or Witness Assistance Service (WAS) before court for a meeting. This is called a proofing meeting and will prepare you for court.

The proofing meeting will:

  • give you information about the court process
  • introduce you to the prosecutor and assigned WAS officer
  • make sure your witness statements are true and correct
  • clarify anything else you don’t understand
  • assess whether you are a vulnerable witness.

Proofing meetings are normally held at either the Director of Public Prosecution’s office, or the court.

In civil matters any proofing of witnesses will take place as arranged by the solicitor involved at any place convenient to the witness and the solicitor.

If you live remotely

In criminal matters to arrange you attendance at a proofing meeting any of the following may happen:

  • travel arrangements will be made for you
  • the prosecutor or WAS officer will come to you
  • the meeting will take place over a video link or phone.

You can ask to have another support person in the meeting, but you can’t have another witness from the same case. Witnesses are not allowed to discuss evidence with each other.

Make arrangements

Before your court date you should also:

  • tell your employer you can’t come to work that day – find out more about claiming loss of wages
  • arrange a babysitter as there are no childcare facilities at court
  • find out how to get there on public transport, or where you can park your car
  • tell the prosecutor or WAS officer, or solicitor concerned if you have any health issues that may affect you during court
  • get a good night’s sleep and don’t drink or take drugs the night before.

Support services for witnesses (in Criminal matters)

The Witness Assistance Service (WAS) can help you if you are called to be a witness in a court case.

They can do all of the following:

You should also tell them if you have any concerns for your safety or think you are a vulnerable witness.

What will happen at Court

It is important that you be on time at court because it helps the court to run efficiently and allows you time to compose yourself and have any last minute conversations needed with the lawyers. In fact it is recommended you arrive about 15 minutes early.

Once you are at Court if you are a witness for the Crown in a criminal matter you should go to the front desk and ask where to find the prosecutions room so you can let the prosecutor know you are there. If you are a witness for the Defence look for the lawyer you have been talking to or ask Court staff where you might find a representative of the legal service who has asked you to attend eg NAAJA, CAALAS, NTLAC etc.

If you are a witness in a civil matter you should check the court list for the matter you are a witness in and go to that particular courtroom. Alternatively look for the solicitor you have been talking to about your evidence.

What you should wear

Court is a formal situation so you should wear clean, neat clothes and shoes. You should not wear clothes with rude slogans or pictures. Bring a jacket as the courtroom can be quite cool.

What you should bring

You may be in court all day so you should bring food, especially if you are diabetic, water and something to read or keep you entertained. Food and drink are not allowed in the courtroom but there is no reason why you cannot eat and drink in the foyer or the Witness assistance Service room if you are using their services.

Until you are called into the courtroom you should remain in the court foyer or Witness Assistance Service room, so you will not be able to leave to buy anything unless you are told you can go.

Being called into the courtroom

When the court is ready to hear your evidence, the court officer will call out your name. You should follow them into the courtroom.

You must take off any headwear or sunglasses and turn off your mobile. As you enter, you should bow slightly or nod to the judge.

You will be shown to the witness box and asked if you want to make an oath on the bible, or a promise to tell the truth before you sit down.

You must tell the truth in court. Telling a lie is a serious offence and you can go to prison.

The lawyers will then ask you questions. If you become upset or need to go to the toilet, you can ask for a break.

It is up to the judge if they will allow you to take a break.

Once you have finished giving your evidence you can leave court.

You don’t need to remain at the court house.

Interpreter services

If English isn’t your first language you can have an interpreter in court. They will ask the questions in your language and repeat your answer back to the court in English.

Find out more information about interpreter services.

Find out more information about courtroom rules.

Child witnesses

In the criminal jurisdiction Children can be the victim of crime, or see and hear something about a crime that can make them a witness in a court case.

Because children are at risk of being lead or influenced when giving evidence, there are rules to guide them through the process, and to make sure they are not traumatised or upset when giving there evidence.

In civil matters children can also be called to give evidence and the rules about them being vulnerable witnesses still apply. Speak to the lawyer about this if your child has been called as a witness in a civil matter.

Taping your child's statement

In relation to criminal matters Police will normally conduct a Criminal Forensic Interview (CFI) where they video tape your child’s statement so it can be played in court as their evidence.

The police will ask a series of questions to establish whether your child can understand and answer questions reliably. 

The video or statement is then handed to the prosecutor.

Meeting your child 

In criminal matters the prosecutor will usually meet your child and go through their evidence with them.

A Witness Assistance Service (WAS) officer will also be in this meeting. They will try an establish a rapport with your child to make them feel comfortable.

During this meeting, the child will be assessed to see:

  • if they can recall the events and reliably answer questions
  • if they can understand what is being asked
  • if they are likely to agree to suggestions rather than what happened
  • if they are likely to become traumatised again.

If the child is assessed as not being able to give evidence, options will be discussed with the parents or guardians. This may include withdrawing until the child is older.

If your child goes to court

If the child is capable of giving evidence, they will be prepared for court. Children are vulnerable witnesses under the law. Read the law.

This means:

  • they can have a support person with them
  • a screen or partition can be used so they can’t see the accused
  • the court may be closed to the public
  • they can give their evidence over video link

Young children or children who are victims of sexual or serious violence are considered to be protected children under the law.

This means:

  • they only have to give their evidence once
  • they don’t have to appear at hearings before a trial
  • their evidence can be pre-recorded.

Support for your child in court

Parents are encouraged to support their child as much as possible. 

However, if you are also a witness in the case, you can’t be with them when they discuss or give evidence.

Any adult giving support to a child may not talk to or respond to questions asked by the child in court.

A Witness Assistance Service officer will normally support your child when they give evidence.

Vulnerable witnesses

You may feel anxious about giving evidence as a witness in court. This is common for many people.

You may also be fearful or intimidated if you have to face the accused in court, particularly if the case involves any of the following: 

  • family or sexual violence
  • children
  • witnesses with special needs.

Under the law, the following types of witnesses are considered to be vulnerable:

  • a child
  • a witness who suffers from an intellectual disability
  • a witness who is an alleged victim of sexual offence
  • a witness who is fearful of harassment or retribution.

Special treatment as a vulnerable witness

You can apply to the court to be a vulnerable witness.

This means you will have special treatment in the courtroom, such as:

  • you can have a support person with you in the witness box
  • there may be a screen or partition so you can’t see the accused
  • the court may be closed to the public
  • you may be able to give your evidence over closed circuit television, meaning you are not in the same room as the accused. Not all courts can provide this.

How to apply

You should talk to the Witness Assistance Service (WAS) who will help you apply.

The court will decide whether you are a vulnerable witness.

Witness safety

If by you giving evidence there may be a concern for your safety or you may be pressured to drop the charges or change your story.

Protection can be given to you through the court on how you give evidence.

There are also rules to make sure defendants do not interfere with witnesses.

Defendants and rules about witnesses

Defendants cannot do any of the following: 

  • offer you money to lie in court
  • try to stop you from going to court
  • injure you, or pay someone else to injure you
  • stalk you
  • threaten you or your property
  • act in any way which can interfere with the court case, known as perverting the course of justice.

Apply for extra protection 

There are ways to apply for extra protection under the law.

You can apply for any of the following:

  • a domestic violence order - when the defendant is a family member or in a de facto relationship with the witness. They can be arrested if they try to contact or approach you.
  • a personal violence order – when the defendant is not a family member but has committed or may commit an offence against you. They can be arrested if they try to contact or approach you.
  • bail conditions – the courts can grant special bail conditions that will ban contact with you. 

If the defendant breaks any of these rules they can be arrested and may be put in prison.

Report concern for your safety

If you are directly threatened or assaulted you should report it to the police immediately. 

If you have concerns for your safety or are being harassed or intimidated you should contact the police officer in charge of your case. 

Keep evidence

If you are threatened or harassed, you should keep any evidence. 

This can include:

  • making notes of what happened and when
  • keeping records of phone calls, messages and emails.

Most people will not need protection. 

If the defendant does not know the victim or witness it is unlikely there will be any future contact.

Claim expenses and loss of wages

You are not expected to pay for travel and accommodation or lose wages by going to court.

In criminal matters costs that can be covered by the prosecutions office include all of the following:

  • travel
  • accommodation
  • meals
  • loss of wages.

If you don’t live in the area, you must phone the prosecution travel clerk at least two weeks before your court date to talk about booking flights and accommodation. You may also need to be sent cab vouchers. 

You must call either:

In civil matters your expenses are a matter for you to negotiate with the lawyer who has asked you to give evidence.


For criminal matters all flights will be booked in economy. 

The DPP travel clerk will arrange the flights bookings and payment after you contact them to discuss dates and times of your travel and send you the details. 

Your subpoena or summons will have the contact details of the DPP travel clerk. 

You must show photo identification at the airport to prove your identity.


You will usually be booked on the airport shuttle bus, unless you arrange for taxi vouchers to be sent to you. You must check the taxi company accepts the voucher before you travel.

Staying overnight and meals

If you need to stay overnight, or you are away from home for more than 12 hours, you will receive a meal allowance.

You are entitled to all of the following:

  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • dinner.

Go to the Director of Public Prosecutions website to read more about allowances.

For witnesses under 12 years old, the meal allowance is halved.

If you order your meals with the hotel, you should book your meals against your room number and the cost will be covered as part of the accommodation.

If you eat outside the hotel you should keep and submit receipts, providing it is not more than the allowable amount, it will be reimbursed.

You will be expected to pay for all other hotel costs such as phone calls or watching movies.

Loss of wages

If you need to take time off work, you should take it as unpaid leave rather than using your paid leave.

You can be reimbursed for loss of salary. You will need to get a letter from your employer. 

Local transport

If you need to take public transport to court, the cost of your ticket will be reimbursed. You must produce your receipt. To claim costs you must:

  1. Complete the witness expense form: 
  2. Submit to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) finance officer by email, post or in person to:

Level  5, Old Admiralty Tower
68 The Esplanade
Darwin NT 0800

For Darwin and Katherine
AGD.DPPTravelNorth [at] nt.gov.au

For Alice Springs and Tennant Creek
AGD.DPPTravelSouth [at] nt.gov.au  

If you travel in your own vehicle

You can claim the cost of driving your own car if you need to travel more than 40 kilometres from where you live to attend court.

A kilometre allowance of $0.76 per kilometre is payable for travelling by personal vehicle where there is no other transport options by air, train or bus. 

Where one or more witnesses travel together in their own vehicle, payment will only be to one person to cover the cost of the trip.

If another option is available, you can claim the equivalent bus fare within the Northern Territory, or airfare if you are travelling from another state.

How to claim for travelling in your own vehicle 

To claim you must:

  1. Complete the witness expense claim form:

and vendor form:

  1. Submit to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) finance officer at the address below:

Level  5, Old Admiralty Tower
68 The Esplanade
Darwin NT 0800

For Darwin and Katherine
AGD.DPPTravelNorth [at] nt.gov.au

For Alice Springs and Tennant Creek
AGD.DPPTravelSouth [at] nt.gov.au  

The money will only be paid once travel is completed and the forms have been submitted.

Being called as an expert witness

You may be called as an expert witness if you have specialised knowledge in your area of business. You can claim up to $610.20 per day in criminal  matters and in civil it is a matter for negotiation with the lawyer. You will need to submit a tax-compliant invoice. 

How to claim expenses (criminal matters)

If you are claiming expenses, you must:

  1. Complete a witness claim form:
  2. Submit to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) finance officer at the address below:

Level  5, Old Admiralty Tower
68 The Esplanade
Darwin NT 0800

For Darwin and Katherine
AGD.DPPTravelNorth [at] nt.gov.au

For Alice Springs and Tennant Creek
AGD.DPPTravelSouth [at] nt.gov.au  

Government employees

If you are employed by a state, federal, local or territory government department or statutory body, you can claim reasonable costs incurred in going to court. 

You should not lose your entitlements as a result of going to court.

Witness Assistance Service contact details

Location Mail Phone and Fax
Level 3, Old Admiralty Tower
Darwin NT 0800 
GPO Box 3321
Darwin NT 0801
Phone: (08) 8935 7500
Fax: (08) 8935 7552
Alice Springs
Level 1, Centre Point Building
Hartley Street
Alice Springs NT 0870
  Phone: (08) 8951 5800
Fax: (08) 8951 5812
Ground Floor Rear
Randazoo Building
Katherine Tce
Katherine NT 0850
PO Box 1296
Katherine NT 0851
Phone: (08) 8973 8813
Fax: (08) 8973 8866

For more information on going to court as a witness, contact the Director of Public Prosecutions.