The following 'Expert Witness Tips When Giving Evidence Remotely' are designed to ensure that your evidence comes across clearly so that the court can then assess what weight to give to it

Preparation

  • The key to giving good evidence is preparation.
  • Practice being online on some neutral subject with your instructing solicitor, colleague or friend or during a training programme* before the hearing itself.
  • Familiarise yourself with the process and the equipment.
  • There is nothing worse than doing this for the first time at the actual hearing.
  • Check the time and date of the appearance and put it in your diary.
  • Set everything up a good 30 minutes before the time.
  • Find out the names of the counsel who will put questions to you.
  • Prepare your own evidence as if you were going to the courtroom itself.
  • Have all the evidence to hand whether physical or digital.

The bundle of evidence

  • Clarify with your instructing solicitors that the bundle is being provided digitally as the courts require.
  • Look through it before the hearing and make yourself familiar with it as you would in a physical trial.
  • Check how documents will be shown to you for your comment: will they be shared by the questioner or will you be able to call them up yourself?

Your space

  • Create a special working space from which you will give your evidence.
  • Make the space look professional and without a distracting background. Think courtroom!
  • It’s probably best to have a desk to sit behind and make sure everything is stable to avoid wobbly images.
  • It doesn’t have to be a whole room but an area that has all you need to work effectively.
  • Have a keep out sign if you have a particular room and agree some ground rules with the people you live with.
  • Have all the things you need available: paper, pens, computer, phone, glass of water, charger, calculator etc.

Interruptions

  • Ensure that there will be none for the duration of the time that you are giving evidence.
  • You may want to have someone else nearby, to take any calls or answer the door.
  • Put your mobile phone on silent.
  • Use the toilet before your session starts.

Equipment

  • There will be a camera and microphone built into your laptop or PC and these should be sufficient for the job. However, you may wish to invest in a separate webcam, headset and speakers to improve quality.
  • Test the equipment; you may have already used them for conference calls, Skype calls etc; if not try them out, by calling friends, family or colleagues, before the trial date. Can they hear you clearly? Can they see you clearly?
  • Check your broadband speed. Current guidance requires a minimum bandwidth of 1.5MBPS.

Set up

  • Dress as if you were going to court.
  • Have the camera at eye level, as you sit down at your desk.
  • Do not set the camera so that you are looking down at the camera or have the camera looking up at you.
  • Have yourself in the middle of the camera shot, showing you from desk level to the top of your head.
  • Do not get so close to the camera that your image is distorted.
  • Remember that as in a physical hearing, recording is prohibited without the permission of the judge. If you want to see the way you look while giving evidence, record a practice session. Also remember you cannot practice on the issues of the actual case in mock cross examination with someone else. 

Background to video image

  • Make sure that whatever is in the background is clear, uncluttered and not distracting.
  • Clear walls are better than walls with pictures, photos, ornaments etc.
  • Do not have a window in the background, as you will appear on screen as a silhouette.
  • Have a light source in front of you, but behind and above the camera, so your face is clearly seen.

Eye contact

  • Look at the lens of the camera.
  • If you look at the image of the speaker on your screen, then you will appear to be looking down on the viewer’s screen image of you.
  • Do not look constantly at the lens as it appears unnatural.

Giving evidence

  • Speak clearly and at a steady pace so that everyone can follow what you are saying.
  • Refer to your report where helpful and necessary. If you can call up and share that document, that will make it easier for you.
  • Remember you are now in court, so all the normal rules apply.
  • At the end of your evidence, make sure you log off to avoid any embarrassing comments going out live!

 

After the hearing

  • Review the event and make a note of what worked and didn’t work and change as appropriate for the next time.

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