What happens in court if you're called to be a witness or give a victim impact statement (VIS).
Going to court general information
This page provides general information. It is not intended to take the place of legal advice you may need to obtain any rights you may have. For more information, contact the Family Liaison Officer or the WorkSafe Advisory Service.
After an investigation
After a WorkSafe investigation, you may need to go to court:
as a witness
to attend proceedings
to read out your Victim Impact Statement (VIS)
This page explains these processes.
What happens if I'm a witness?
If you have made a statement about a workplace incident to a WorkSafe Victoria investigator or the police you may be called as a witness if the case goes to court.
If you're called as a witness, you'll receive a witness summons if you need to give evidence in the magistrates court or subpoena if you need to give evidence in the county or supreme court.
This means you must go to court to give evidence about what you know about the incident, including what you said in your statement.
Courts need the help of truthful witnesses. Giving evidence helps paint a picture to the Judge, Magistrate or jury about what happened.
It's very important that you follow the summons or subpoena.
If you need more information about what you have to do, you can call the Family Liaison Officer on 1800 136 089.
It is important that we can contact you before the hearing. Let us know if you change your address or phone number.
The court date
The date on the witness summons or subpoena is the first day of the hearing. It may not be the date you need to come to court.
WorkSafe will contact you closer to the hearing with more information about when you must to come to court and the process of giving evidence.
Once you know the court date, you'll need to arrange to take time off work or study to come to court. You may need to come to court for more than one day.
If you have problems understanding or speaking English or would like a support person on the day you give evidence, call our Family Liaison Officer.
If court is in Melbourne and you plan to drive, find all-day parking. Public transport is also a good way to get to court.
You will not be allowed into the court before you give evidence, so bring something to do while you wait.
If you lose or have to spend or money to go to court to as a witness, you can ask to be paid back.
These costs may be:
lost wages (get a letter from your employer and a copy of a recent payslip)
money you had to spend on travel
meals (if you have to be at court for the whole day, we can pay you back for lunch)
Keep any receipts you get. You will need to give us copies.
You should have received a witness expenses claim form with your witness summons or subpoena.
When you have finished giving evidence:
fill out the form
sign the form
give the form to the WorkSafe lawyer
Once we have this form and your attendance at court has been confirmed, we can pay you back for these costs.
It can be a long time after you make your statement before you give evidence in court.
Carefully read your statement again before you come to court. This will refresh your memory about what you told the WorkSafe investigator at the time of the incident.
If you don't have a copy of your statement, or if you have any questions, contact the WorkSafe investigator, Family Liaison Officer or lawyer.
The day of court
Court times are usually 9.30am to 4.15pm. There's a lunch break from 1.00pm to 2.00pm.
Plan to arrive early to allow time for security screening.
When you get to court:
go through security screening
check the daily court list on the noticeboard in the court foyer
find the name of the 'accused' (the company name or name of the individual) on the court list. This will tell you the court number
go to that court room and wait outside for the WorkSafe investigator or lawyer
do not talk with anyone about the case or your evidence while you wait
Courts can experience delays so you may need to wait at court before giving evidence, or sometimes come back another day. WorkSafe will try to minimise delays as much as we can but this isn't always possible so we appreciate your patience.
In the court room
When it's your turn to give evidence, a court officer will call your name outside the court room.
When you're in the witness box, you'll need to tell the court your full name.
You’ll also need to swear an oath on the Bible, other Holy Book, or make an affirmation, that is, a promise to tell the truth.
What will happen:
the prosecutor asks you questions first. This is called 'evidence-in-chief'
the defence barrister who represents the accused then asks you questions. This is called 'cross-examination'
the prosecutor might ask you more questions. This is called 're-examination'
the Magistrate or Judge may ask questions too. Always call the Magistrate or Judge 'Your Honour', 'Sir' or 'Madam'
when you're asked a question, tell the Magistrate, Judge or jury your answer
When giving evidence:
always tell the truth. This is the most important part of giving evidence
listen carefully to the question before answering
take your time answering questions and if you don't understand a question, ask for it to be repeated
if you're not sure of the answer or can't remember, say so. Don't try to guess or make up an answer. It's OK to say 'I don't know' or 'I can't remember'
if you need a break, ask the Magistrate or Judge ('Could I please have a break, Your Honour?'). Don't talk about the case with other witnesses during any breaks
Victim impact statements
A victim impact statement (VIS) is a written statement that lets you tell the court how you've been affected by the death of a loved one, or a workplace injury.
This is different from any statement you may have already made to WorkSafe or police.
Your VIS helps describe, in your own words, how the crime has affected you:
Your VIS is used by the court at the plea hearing. The plea hearing happens after the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty, but before they are sentenced.
You don't need to be in court for the plea hearing, but you can attend if you'd like to.
If you submit a VIS, a copy is given to the lawyers for the accused and is (handed up) to the judge or magistrate.
It's one of the many factors they will think about when deciding on a sentence.
On the day of the plea hearing, you can read your VIS to the judge or magistrate if you like. Or, you can have a representative read it for you instead.
If you have questions about your VIS or want to make it in a language other than English, call our Family Liaison Officer.
After the plea hearing the judge or magistrate will decide on the sentence to be imposed on the accused. The judge or magistrate may give the sentence on the day of the plea hearing or on a future date.