The witness is an essential part of the trial. A witness is an individual, other than the suspect or the victim, who knows something that will help uncover the truth or who saw the scene of the crime. Someone who simply heard information is not a witness.
Victims who have registered as a civil party cannot be a witness, but can be asked to give their version of events.

Witnesses are subject to very specific regulations:

  • perjury is an offence;
  • witnesses take an oath and have a duty to tell the truth: and having a duty to tell the truth, witnesses are required to take an oath. Someone who has not taken an oath cannot be a witness.

Conversely, someone who has taken an oath is not necessarily a witness. This applies to experts, whose role is not to tell the truth about facts constituting an offence, but to give a technical opinion on the questions put to them.

Testifying can be scary for some people, who may fear being threatened by, for example, someone who was charged as a result of their testimony, or someone close to them. This is why witnesses can benefit from protective measures (identity kept out of witness statements, not mentioned in public trials, orders, judgements, or rulings that are made public, use of an assumed identity, etc).

I was a victim of a criminal offence: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of a criminal offence Criminal proceedings Who is who in criminal proceedings

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