Anyone who has direct knowledge of facts which are important for the case may be called as a witness, that is to say, they saw the crime take place or know something important for discovering the truth.

In a way, witnesses are indirect victims, as witnessing a crime or a violent situation can cause emotional distress.

In principle, anyone who is named as a witness must testify, with a few exceptions:
the defendant's close relatives, who may refuse to testify, and people covered by professional secrecy, such as journalists, doctors and lawyers. However, they may still be ordered to testify if the crime is a serious one and their testimony is crucial for arriving at the truth.

Any witness who is called to appear must attend the court on the date and at the time and place given, follow the instructions given as to how to give their testimony, and answer questions truthfully. Otherwise, they may be charged with the crime of perjury.

Witnesses are not required to provide their home address for the purposes of court notices. They may opt to provide their work address or another address to avoid having the other participants in the proceedings know where they live.
Witnesses may be accompanied by a lawyer every time they need to give evidence. Their lawyer, when necessary, may inform them of their rights but cannot intervene in the questioning.

On the day of the trial, witnesses are not allowed to be in the courtroom before testifying, so they should wait in the witness waiting area and enter the courtroom only to give their evidence.

To find out more about missing the trial, click here.

The defendant may be removed from the courtroom while a witness, particularly the victim is testifying, if the court considers that the defendant's presence may deter the witness from telling the truth or if he/she is under 16 and there are reasons to believe that testifying in the presence of the defendant may have a serious adverse effect.
If a witness is suffering from a serious illness or has to travel abroad and is unable to give evidence in court, then, the examining judge may decide to examine the witness either at the inquiry stage or at the examination stage so that their testimony can be used, if necessary, at the trial. The participants in this examination, besides the examining judge, are the Public Prosecutor, the defendant and the defence lawyer and the lawyer for the assistant and the civil parties. This testimony is recorded and is called a statement for future recall because its purpose is to be used as evidence in the trial.
Witnesses are entitled to be reimbursed the expenses incurred by participating in the proceedings.

To find out more about the right to reimbursement of expenses, click here.

Witness protection measures may be implemented whenever there are risks to the witness's life, physical and psychological integrity, freedom and property of considerably high value because of their contribution to proving the crime. These measures may be extended to include the witness' relatives and other people close to them.

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Witnesses that are considered particularly vulnerable may benefit from a number of measures to protect them from victimisation or intimidation.

To find out more, click here.

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