When it is your turn to answer questions, your name will be called, and you will be directed to the witness stand. You will be asked to state your name and swear an oath to tell the truth. Most witnesses swear to the truth by placing their right hand on a Bible. If you do not wish to swear on the Bible, you can ask to solemnly affirm the truth. Inform the Crown Attorney or defence lawyer a few days before the trial if you prefer to affirm.
A young person under 14 may be called to serve as a witness in a trial. The Canada Evidence Act states that children and young people under the age of 14 can give evidence if they are able to understand and answer questions and promise to tell the truth.
Young people under 14 are not asked to take an oath or make an affirmation. Young witnesses must promise to tell the truth.
If you are asked to give your address, and do not wish to say it publicly, tell the judge when you are asked that you would prefer to not state it publicly.
The Crown Attorney’s case is presented first. If you are a witness for the Crown Attorney, you will be questioned by him or her first. This is known as direct examination. When the Crown Attorney has finished, the defence lawyer will ask you questions. This is known as cross-examination.
The case for the defence is presented next. If you are a witness called by the defence, you will be questioned first by the defence lawyer and then cross-examined by the Crown Attorney. While you are on the witness stand, the judge can ask you questions at any time.
Both the Crown Attorney and the defence must follow rules of evidence when questioning witnesses. Neither the Crown Attorney nor the defence can ask leading questions of witnesses for its own side. A leading question is one that suggests its own answer. They must ask the kinds of questions that allow witnesses to use their own words. Leading questions are allowed in a cross-examination. The defence can ask leading questions of Crown witnesses and the Crown Attorney can ask leading questions of defence witnesses.