In criminal trials I understand that one can specify a list of witnesses that a court will try to reach, but are they compelled to assist the trial with their participation?

Now what if it is a civil matter that someone had witnessed relevant events in? And the claimant (or for that matter either of the parties) would like to invite them to give testimony as to their recollections of the events.

What mechanisms are there to ask or “get” them to partake in the proceedings if they have no incentive to do so?

1 Answer 1


Witnesses are subpoenaed

The party who wishes to call the witness asks the court for a subpoena, the court issues it, the party serves it on the witness, and the witness must attend court on the day and give evidence or be arrested for contempt.

A good lawyer does this even for witnesses who would have come anyway. Partly because it entitles the witness to reasonable reimbursement for their travel and accommodation expenses but mostly because it’s very embarrassing for a lawyer when a key witness doesn’t turn up and the only answer they have when the judge says “did you subpoena them?” is “No”.

  • So, basically a witness is asked the same way regardless of whether it is a civil or criminal case?
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 21, 2023 at 8:30
  • 1
    Who bears the cost of their travel expenses and accommodation? Jan 21, 2023 at 9:59
  • Are there some prerequisites for the court to issue such a subpoena? (e.g. some reasoning about why the witness would be helpful)
    – PMF
    Jan 21, 2023 at 20:11
  • @PMF yes. One side or the other says they are.
    – Dale M
    Jan 21, 2023 at 22:03
  • In E&W it's called a witness summons. Jan 29, 2023 at 18:48

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