Being a witness
Before the inquest, court staff or a police officer contact you to inform you that you are required as a witness.
You will receive a written notice (summons) of the time and date you are required to attend court. Where possible, the coroner attempts to accommodate your work or family commitments.
The summons to attend the inquest to give evidence as a witness is a court order that you must comply with unless you have a reasonable excuse.
If you fail to attend, a warrant for your arrest may be issued to bring you to court to give evidence.
Your role as a witness
The following is the usual process for giving evidence in an inquest:
- Bring a copy of any documents – this should include a copy of the summons and your statement.
- Dress neat and tidy – you are not required to wear formal attire.
- Arrive 15 minutes before your evidence time – check your summons for the court location and number. Usually, you can speak to the lawyer assisting the coroner before you enter the courtroom to give your evidence.
- Wait outside the courtroom until you’re called - witnesses aren’t allowed in the courtroom before they give evidence. If there are unexpected delays, you may need to wait until you are called to give your evidence.
- Enter the courtroom - once you are needed, your name will be called and you will be asked to enter the courtroom. Bow to the coroner as you enter the courtroom.
- Sit in the witness box - you will be directed to the witness box where the coroner will ask if you prefer to take an oath on the bible or an affirmation. This is to confirm you will swear to tell the truth.
- You will be asked questions - the lawyer assisting the coroner will ask questions. If you’ve provided a statement, you will usually be shown a copy of that statement and you may refer to it while giving evidence.
- Other parties or their lawyers may ask questions – other lawyers and sometimes the coroner will also ask questions. Refer to the coroner as ‘Your Honour’ if you speak to them directly.
- You will be excused - The length of your evidence will depend on the circumstances. When all parties have finished asking questions, the coroner will excuse you and you can leave the court. Alternatively, you can stay seated in the public gallery for the rest of the inquest.
Witnesses may have a lawyer represent them at the inquest.
Before attending court, you may seek legal advice about inquests and whether you should obtain legal representation.
Note: The Coroners Court does not provide legal representation or legal advice to witnesses appearing at an inquest.
If you are required to attend court to give evidence, you may be entitled to be paid witness expenses (including travel and meal allowances). A set scale of fees issued by the Queensland Police Service determines the amount paid to witnesses.
Generally, the investigating police officer will speak to you after you have given your evidence and provide you with the claim form for completion.
If you have queries about the payment of witness expenses, contact the investigating police officer.