What to expect when your Civil trial starts?
As you prepare for the Civil trial to start, you must make sure that you have brought 2 sets of all the documents submitted to Court: 1 for the witness and 1 for yourself. You must also bring enough writing material and stationery to take notes.
On the day of the trial, you must arrive early to find your way to the right Court on time. After arrival, you should inform the Court officer of your presence and confirm that your case is fixed in that specific Court.
If you’re late or absent, the case may proceed in your absence. Your action can be dismissed or judgment entered against you.
You must be dressed appropriately in Court. You must avoid untidy, unclean or skimpy dressing.
When the Judge enters and leaves the courtroom, you should stand up and bow as a show of respect for the Judiciary.
You must remain standing when you address the Court. You must address the Judge as “Your Honour”, the lawyer for the other side as “Learned Counsel” and the witnesses by their surname, for example, “Mr. Tan” or “Miss Lim”.
You must not interrupt the Judge or the lawyer for the other side when they are speaking. If you wish to raise a point when it’s not your turn to speak, you should wait for the Judge or lawyer for the other side to finish speaking before you stand up to ask for permission to raise any further points.
When the trial starts, it will follow this order:
- Opening Statements – As the parties’ opening statements would have been submitted to the Court before to the trial, the Court would typically order that the opening statements be deemed seen and read. In such circumstances, parties need not make oral opening submissions but will go straight into the examination of witnesses.
- (b) Examination of Witnesses – In a civil trial, the Plaintiff will present his evidence first by calling his first witness.
When the witness is on the stand, the rest of the witnesses both for the Plaintiff and the Defendant must wait outside the courtroom.
When the Plaintiff’s witness is on the stand, the Plaintiff will be given the first opportunity to ask the witness questions. This is known as the “examination-in-chief” of the witness. As the evidence requested or intended to be adduced by each witness would already be found in the affidavit of evidence-in-chief, the examination-in-chief of each witness is generally short. After taking the oath, the witness will typically be asked to confirm his name, ID number, occupation and residential address to establish his identity. After that, he will be asked to confirm the truth of the contents of his Affidavit of Evidence-in-Chief.
After the examination-in-chief is complete, the Defendant’s lawyer or the Defendant will be entitled to ask the witness questions. This is known as cross-examination. This is the opportunity to challenge the evidence given by the Plaintiff’s witness. This can be done by giving the Defendant’s version of events to the witness and asking if the witness agrees. The Defendant can also rely on documentary evidence to contradict the evidence given by the witness. Questions intended to insult or embarrass the witness are not allowed. Questions that are not relevant to the issue at hand can also be objected to by the other person.
After the cross-examination, the Plaintiff can ask the witness some questions to clarify the answers given by the witness during cross-examination. This is known as the re-examination of the witness.
After all the Plaintiff’s witnesses have testified, the Plaintiff will tell the Court that he has closed his case. The Defendant’s witnesses will then testify before the Court. The procedure for the examination of the Defendant’s witnesses is the same as that for the Plaintiff’s witnesses.
So there you have it, some basic information on what to expect when your Civil trial starts.