Witness summons

Summoning a witness to court

Where either party to the proceedings believes a witness may not attend court voluntarily, they can apply for a witness summons to be issued (an order issued to a person outlining the specific date for their appearance in court).

A witness summons can take two forms:

  • a witness summons requiring a person to give evidence; and
  • a witness summons requiring a person to produce documents that are needed as evidence.

How do I obtain a witness summons?

To obtain a witness summons, you need to send two completed witness summonses to the court in which the case is proceeding or where the hearing is to be held. This should be done by competing form N20, which can be obtained from the court or the Court Service’s website. A separate witness summons is required for each witness whose attendance at court is sought.

If the court is to arrange service on the witness, the party seeking the witness summons should also send to the court an amount of money to be paid or offered to the witness.

When is permission of the court required?

A party must obtain permission from the court where that party wishes to:

  • have a summons issued less than seven days before the date of the final hearing;
  • have a summons issued for a witness to attend court to give evidence or to produce documents on any date except the date fixed for the final hearing; or
  • have a summons issued for a witness to attend court to give evidence or to produce documents at any hearing except the final hearing.

If permission of the court is required this should be obtained by making a formal application to the court. Applications of this nature are usually dealt with by a judge on paper and without the need for a hearing.

How much money should be paid or offered to a witness?

If you are seeking a witness summons, you should pay or offer to pay a reasonable sum to cover the witness’s travel to and from the court, together with a sum representing compensation for the witness’s loss of time suffered as a result of them having to attend the court.

The amount that should be paid or offered will vary depending upon the distance required to travel to the court, the length of the witness’ attendance at court and what losses a witness is likely to suffer. Deciding on an amount can be difficult: a witness who is left out of pocket may be a less cooperative witness, but if the amount is over-generous there is a risk you could be seen to be trying to buy the witness’ evidence.

Travel expenses

If the witness is likely to drive to court it will generally be appropriate to offer them an amount in respect of mileage plus the cost of parking. If they are not likely to drive to court the amount offered should reflect the cost of using public transport. If the witness’ attendance at court is likely to be for more than one day then this should be taken into account.

Loss of time

The loss suffered by a witness as a result of them attending court will depend upon what the witness does for a living.

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For more information on:

  • What happens after I have obtained a witness summons?
  • Enforcing attendance of witness
  • What if the witness fails to attend court?
  • When should a witness summons be used?
  • Objecting to an application