Letters to the editor

March 23rd, 2016
Letters to the editor

Letters are not published under noms de plume. However, letters from practising attorneys who make their identities and addresses known to the editor may be considered for publication anonymously.

Seven pointers for a good court witness

I sat listening to evidence in the Tax Court this week, as I have done many times in the past 25 years. Why do legal practitioners not brief their witnesses on what to expect in court?
A legal practitioner should deal with the following to turn an ordinary witness into a good witness:

  • Brief the witness on how to address the court.
  • A witness should:
    • Stand while giving evidence, even if the presiding officer offers you a seat. The evidence of a standing witness is more audible.
    • Speak slowly and clearly. When the court takes notes, pause so that they may catch-up the writing.
    • Turn to the Bench when answering questions. The lawyer asks the questions on behalf of the court, the Bench must hear and evaluate the evidence. Answering to the Bench also helps to not get into an argument with a lawyer under cross-examination.
    • Be brief with answers, the lawyer will ask more questions if he or she wants the court to hear more.
    • Ask for the question to be repeated, if the question is not understood.
    • Do not speculate, the court is only interested in first-hand information, you should say if you do not know certain information

Frans Krause, chartered accountant, Pretoria

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (April) DR 4.

De Rebus