As a bank worker and most especially a market-facing bank staff, you may be faced with a situation where one of your customers have been taken to court for some reasons and you are to appear in court to as a bank witness.
In court, testimony from those who have knowledge of or are victims in a case is crucial to our justice system. Being a good bank witness requires the sacrifice of your time to adequately prepare for trial.
I hope that the following tips will help you if you are called upon to be a witness for your bank in court.
1. Refresh your memory – A few minutes before you testify, take a moment to refresh your memory about the case. This will assist you in recalling the facts more accurately when asked a question.
2. Do not exaggerate – Do not make overly broad statement that you may have to correct. If the question is about the value of a property, and if your answer is only an estimate, make sure you say it is only an estimate.
3. Beware of suggestions by a lawyer as to date and time when you do not recall the actual date and time. Say you cannot recall, if truly you cannot. Beware of questions that ends with ‘true or false’
4. Do not agree with the counsel’s estimate unless you independently arrive at the same estimate. Be particularly careful in responding to questions that begins with ‘Wouldn’t you agree that…?’. Do not allow an attorney to put words in your mouth.
5. Speak your own words – Do not try to memorize what you are going to say. Doing so will make your testimony sound ‘pat’ and unconvincing. Instead, be yourself, and prior to the trail, go over in your own mind the matter about which you will be questioned.
6. Your appearance is very important – A neat appearance helps the Judge to concentrate, just as a casual or dressy appearance may distract the Judge during the brief time you are on the stand.
7. Speak clearly – Present your testimony clearly, slowly and loud enough for the Judge, counsel and the stenographer to hear and understand everything you say. Avoid distracting mannerisms.
8. Be responsible – When called into the witness stand, be serious, avoid laughing and do not say anything about the case to anyone until you are on the stand. Do not appear to be the ‘wise guy’ or you will lose the respect of the judge.
9. Taking oath – Part of the court process is for you to take oath. Stand straight, pay attention to the clerk, and say ‘I do’ clearly. Once you have been sworn in, you cannot step down from the witness box until you have been discharged by the Judge.
10. Tell the Truth – Most important of all, you have sworn to ‘tell the truth’ tell it. Every true fact should be readily admitted. Do not stop to figure out whether your answer will help or hurt anyone. Just answer the questions to the best of your memory.
11. Listen carefully to avoid confusion – Listen carefully, think before you answer. The judge will probably be taking notes, If you have a long answer, watch the Judge’s pen for your clue on when to start the next sentence.
12. Do not lose your temper – A witness who is angry may appear to be emotionally unstable, keep you temper. Do not get mad when you feel you are being doubted during cross examination, be calm and courteous, the Lawyers are only doing their job.
13. Respond orally to questions – Do not nod your head for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Speak aloud in the microphone so that the court recording device can hear and record your responses.
14. Think before you speak – listen carefully to the questions and ponder, if you have to, before providing your answers. If you do not understand any question, have it repeated. While answers should not be rushed, neither should there be unnecessary long delay to a simple question if you know the answer.
15. Explain your answers – Explain your answers if necessary. Give the answers in your own word if the lawyers requested for a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer and it cannot be truthfully answered as requested.
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16. Correct your mistakes – If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately. If your answer is not clear clarify it immediately. It is better you correct your mistake yourself that to allow the lawyers discover an error in your testimony. The Judge understand that people make honest mistake, so if you discover that that have made inconsistent statements, correct it immediately.
17. Do not volunteer information – Answer only questions you were asked, do not volunteer information that was not requested of you. Your opinion is not expected unless requested. And if requested, as a bank witness do not say something someone else told you unless asked.
18. Don’t set yourself up for error – Unless you are certain, do not say “That is all of the conversation” or “Nothing else happened”. Instead say, “That is all i can recall” or “That is all i remember happening”. It is possible that after more thoughts or other questions you may remember something else that is important.
19. Objection by Counsel – Stop speaking instantly when the Judge interrupts you, or an attorney objects to a question. Wait for the Judge to tell you to continue before answering any further as a bank witness.
20. Be positive and Confidence – Give positive, definite answer possible at all times. Avoid saying, ‘I think’, ‘I believe’ or ‘In my opinion’ if you can answer positively. If you do not know, say you do not know, don’t make up answers.
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21. Follow Courtroom rules – When being questioned by defence counsel, don’t look at the judge for help in answering the questions, If the question is improper, your counsel will object. If there was not objection to a question, answer it.
22. Do not discuss your testimony – After you have testified in court, you should not discuss your testimony with other witnesses.
In conclusion, expect to be deflated and exhausted. In court, things never go quite as expected. You may not have said what you actually planned to say and most lawyers are not good at speaking words of encouragement but you should have delivered the truth as it is.
Courtesy: Ololade Lawrence