Being a witness in court
Why have I been asked to be a witness?
Court decisions are given on the basis of the evidence presented before the court. You have been asked to be a witness because you have something to tell that may be of importance to the court. By being a witness you can help the court to give a correct judgment.
You have to go to the court to act as a witness
Everybody who receives a witness summons must go to the court. You have been asked to be a witness because one of the parties requests it or because the court finds it necessary. The witness summons tells you when and where to attend. You must go to court even though you think you do not have any information about the case. If you do not go when you are told, you could be fined and found liable to pay compensation. The court can ask the police to bring witnesses to court.
If you are sick or for any other reason can not make it to the court when you are told, you must contact the prosecutor (his or her name is stated in the witness summons) as quickly as possible if you have been asked to be a witness in a criminal case. The prosecutor will then decide if you should be excused from acting as a witness. If you are not excused you must at once notify the court and hand in a sick note.
If you have been asked to be a witness in a civil case and you are sick or cannot go to the court for any other reason, you must notify the court as quickly as possible.
It is the court that decides whether your absenteeism is legal or not.
If your travel to the court exceeds 800 km by public transportation or 125 km by other means of transportation, you can apply to the court to be excused as a witness. If you have been asked to be a witness in a criminal case you should contact the prosecutor, as he or she will consider if you can be excused as a witness or if your evidence can be given in any other way.
If you have been asked to be a witness in a civil case you should contact the court. If you have difficulties arriving on time for your scheduled meeting in court, you must contact the court and ask if it possible for a delay.
You will have to wait
Even though you are told to come to the court at a specific time, you will probably have to spend some time waiting. The time you have been given has been set according to an assessment of how long court proceedings are expected to last before you give your evidence. While every effort will be made to keep that time, this is not always possible and you may have to wait. While waiting it is important that you wait in the waiting area or nearby the courtroom where your evidence will be heard. Outside of the courtroom the party that has summoned you as a witness will contact you. It is possible that you will be asked to come back later that day or another day.
What should I do to prepare for the time in court?
Before you go to court it is advisable to make notes about what you remember of the case. You can bring your notes to the court. You can also prepare by reading letters, case papers, etc. You can also contact the lawyers. The lawyers may also want to contact you prior to your court appearance. However, you should not discuss the case with any other persons.
What proceedings take place in the courtroom?
Before a witness is asked to give his or her evidence, the parties present and explain the case for the court. If it is a criminal case the defendant will also give his or her statement to the court. As a general rule witnesses cannot be present in the courtroom until after having given their evidence. When it is time to give your evidence the judge will ask your name, date of birth, address and occupation. You will also be asked if you are related to any of the parties in the case. You must also tell the court if you have any other relations to the parties, for instance mutual economic interests.
Due to kinship or any other relations to the parties you may choose not to give your evidence or not to answer specific questions. If you are under the obligation of confidentiality you may not be able to give your evidence unless it is revoked legally.
You have to make an affirmation
Before you can give your evidence you normally have to make an affirmation. The judge (the court administrator) will ask you to promise to tell the truth and not to hold back any evidence. The judge will also tell you that a false explanation is a crime and can be punished. You should then answer: ”So I affirm” (Det forsikrer jeg).
How is my evidence taken?
Witnesses are often asked to explain what they know about the case. If you are uncertain about what to tell the court, you can ask for concrete questions. The lawyers as well as the judge can ask questions. If you are uncertain what to answer or you do not remember what took place, you must tell the court so. You can refer to your notes but your statement must be given orally. Giving false information is liable to imprisonment for up to five years. Unless you are asked to wait, you can leave the court when you have given your evidence. You can also follow the rest of the case by sitting in with the public.
You can claim your expenses
You are entitled to have your costs of travelling to the court covered when the distance is at least 15 km. Within the city limit and when the travel to the court is less than 15 km you are entitled to have your factual public transportation expenses covered. Compensation for going by car to the court is only given if this is cheaper than public transport or there are special reasons allowing you to use your own car. The court must approve such compensation in advance. If the distance to the court exceeds 15 km and the travelling is more than five hours you are also entitled to an allowance for board. If you are unable to pay for the cost of travelling to the court yourself, you can contact the local police office and ask for a travel voucher. If you have to stay overnight you are also entitled to a night allowance according to the rates set in ”The Government’s agreement on travels (Statens særavtale om reiser). Valid rates can be obtained from the court. Claims must be made to the court after you have given your evidence or at the latest one month after you finished the travel.
You will be compensated for any loss of wages when going to court
Compensation for the loss of any wages for being a witness in criminal cases can be given when this is documented. You must bring proof of expenses and loss of wages (confirmation from your employer) and your tax report card.
You can also contact the court if you have any questions.