Preparing for court
As soon as we are asked to give evidence in court, we should talk with our supervisor and site solicitor or the lawyer representing Oranga Tamariki.
Support from our supervisor
For care or protection cases, our supervisor can help us come up with a proposed plan for safety and contact for te tamaiti in case the judge decides to reserve their judgment or decision (it is possible we may not get a result for up to several months).
Our supervisor can also help us:
- retrieve our diary, notes or visiting book if they have been archived
- work through any worries or anxieties we have about giving evidence on the stand
- organise for another social worker to cover our work while we prepare for court and while we're in court.
Working with the lawyer representing Oranga Tamariki
The lawyer representing Oranga Tamariki will help us:
- prepare our evidence – our evidence is usually based on affidavits we have filed in court or reports we have written, as well as our diary, notes or visiting book (the lawyer may want to see these)
- go over our evidence and be confident of the facts
- practise responding to questions we may be asked in court, including during cross-examination in a defended hearing.
We should tell the lawyer about any issues that may arise during the hearing. They can answer any questions we may have.
We can sometimes be called to give evidence even if we are no longer allocated the case or we no longer work for Oranga Tamariki. The decision about who attends is based on who is the best person to talk to the evidence and respond to questions.
During the hearing
When we give evidence, we may be asked questions by our lawyer and cross-examined by other lawyers, who may be representing the parents or te tamaiti or rangatahi, for example. We should:
- ask for clarification if a question is unclear or complex
- correct any misinterpretations by the cross-examiner
- tell the judge if can't find a piece of information in the ring binders that are provided (called 'bundles')
- not give an opinion that we're not qualified to give – for example, an opinion about a psychological condition if we're not qualified as a psychologist.
If we’re asked if something is 'possible', we should state whether we think it’s likely or unlikely in this case.
Our evidence will be recorded electronically.
If we are sworn in and the court adjourns for a break or the end of the day, we are still under oath and can only talk about the case with the lawyer with the consent of the judge or the consent of all the parties.
After the hearing
We should meet with the solicitor when the hearing is over and ask for feedback on what went well and what we could do differently next time.
We can talk with our supervisor about:
- how we found the experience of giving evidence in court
- how we feel about the outcome of the hearing once the judge's decision is released.