In criminal proceedings, the particulars of the incident described in the charge are often unclear or disputed. The parties attempt to prove how the events proceeded in their opinion. The witnesses named by the parties play a key role in this process.

Testimony is oral and direct, that is, it is given in person in the courtroom where the court is in session. Only in exceptional cases are the interview records, produced by the police during the pre-trial investigation, read out in court.

Obligation to give evidence

Normally, everyone is under obligation to give evidence. However, you do not need to or are not even allowed to give evidence on certain matters. A person close to a party may also refuse to give evidence. The court decides whether there are grounds for refusal.

A witness called by a prosecutor is compensated from state funds for travel expenses and loss of income; a per diem is also paid. The other parties are responsible for compensating the witnesses they have named.

Obligation to tell the truth

A witness at a trial is under a strict obligation to tell the truth, due to which he or she will give a truth declaration to the court before the questioning. The witness is under an obligation to answer any questions made and to give an account of what else he or she knows about the matter.

Threatening a witness or inciting or persuading a witness to make an untruthful statement is subject to severe punishment. The pre-trial investigation authorities, prosecutors and courts have various ways of ensuring the safety of a witness. In the most severe cases, a witness can be heard anonymously, i.e. so that his or her identity is not revealed to the parties.