If you are asked to be a witness at a Disciplinary Tribunal, you will play an important part in ensuring that the Tribunal has the information it needs to make a decision.
Giving evidence at a Disciplinary Tribunal as a witness can be worrying, particularly if you do not know what to expect. This information will tell you how it will all work and what to expect.
If you need to be a witness at a Disciplinary Tribunal hearing, we will let you know as soon as possible. We will also tell you as soon as we can what the date, start time and address of the hearing are.
Witnesses usually need to give evidence in person - however, in some cases, witnesses can give evidence by video-link, for example where there are difficulties in getting to the hearing venue. Before the hearing takes place, we will have chosen a Case Officer. You can ask them anything you need to know about the hearing.
If you have a disability, we will make any reasonable adjustments that you need so that you can give evidence. Please tell the Case Officer about your needs. If you are unable to attend the hearing on the day because you are too ill or an emergency has arisen, please contact the Case Officer as quickly as possible to let them know. It may be possible for you to give evidence on another day (if the Tribunal is due to run for more than one day). Or the Tribunal may be prepared to accept an earlier written statement.
Tribunal hearings are less formal than court proceedings. They do not take place in a courtroom. No wigs and gowns are worn and everybody, including the witnesses, remains seated.
You can bring someone with you for support.
Tribunal hearings are held in public and therefore members of the public are allowed to come and watch what happens. This can include friends and relatives of the people involved in the case and other people such as journalists, although this is rare.
We will try to make sure that you have to wait as little time as possible before you are asked to give evidence. You may want to consider bringing something to read or do whilst you are waiting.
When you get to the Tribunal you will normally be asked to wait outside the room where the hearing is taking place until it is your turn to give evidence. You will not usually be able to hear the evidence of other witnesses before you give your own evidence.
The Case Officer will be happy to show you around the room where the hearing is going to happen if you would like.
Very rarely, some cases are delayed or even put off until another date. Sometimes the person admits the charges against them on the day. If this happens your evidence will not be needed, and you will have had a wasted journey.
The Clerk to the Tribunal will introduce themselves to you. It is their job to make sure that all the people who should be in the room are there, and that everything happens on time and in the right order. They are also usually responsible for going outside the Tribunal room and calling witnesses in.
If you are giving evidence in person, you will be shown where to sit when you go into the Tribunal Room. If you are giving evidence by video-link, the video-link will be activated when the Tribunal is ready to hear your evidence.
Before you start to give your evidence, you will be asked to either swear on the holy book you prefer or, if you are not religious, to affirm that you will tell the whole truth.
If you are a witness for the Bar Standards Board, the barrister instructed on behalf of us will ask you questions first. Then the defendant or their representative will ask questions - this is called cross-examination. When the cross-examination has finished, our barrister may ask you more questions. The members of the Tribunal may also ask you questions. Very occasionally, you may be asked to return more than once to give more evidence.
When you give evidence, the prosecuting barrister and the representative for the person facing disciplinary charges (or the person themselves) will ask you questions. They may seem to repeat questions or ask them in different ways. Please remember:
- In most cases, the person facing disciplinary charges will not have admitted guilt. Your evidence will help the Tribunal to decide whether he or she is guilty or not.
- Take your time, speak slowly, clearly and loudly enough for everyone to hear.
- If you cannot hear a question, ask for it to be repeated.
- If you do not understand a question, just ask them to explain.
- If you do not know or are not sure of the answer to any questions you are asked, just say so. You can ask the judge chairing the Tribunal for advice about whether you should answer the question.
It is important to remember that the role of the person cross-examining you is not to make people think you are stupid, or call you a liar. It is to make sure that a witness's evidence really does prove something and that they have not made a mistake. They are likely to try to test your memory or they may press you to change your version of events or accept theirs. It is sometimes the case that during cross-examination witnesses feel that their memory is not as clear as they had thought it was. If that happens to you, do not be frightened to say so.
If the questioning becomes too aggressive, the person who called you as a witness has the right to ask the judge chairing the Tribunal to stop it. The Tribunal can also ask the person cross-examining to stop the questions or to ask them in a different way.
It is important to bear in mind that it is normally only the most serious cases that are referred to a Disciplinary Tribunal. The person facing charges before the Tribunal will potentially face serious consequences should they, or their company, be found guilty of professional misconduct.
After you have finished giving evidence you may be told that you can leave. If you have attended in person (rather than via video link) you can stay and listen to the rest of the case. Sometimes you might have to stay after you have given evidence. This will only happen if something new has come up while you are giving evidence.
There are times where, during you giving evidence, the Tribunal may pause the hearing. This would usually happen because it is lunchtime or the end of the day, but it might happen for another reason. Should this happen, and you have not finished giving your evidence, you will be told that you are not to discuss your evidence or the case with any other witnesses or people involved in the hearing. These will include the Bar Standards Board’s barrister, the Case Officer, the defendant or defendant's representative.
If you have not finished giving evidence in person at the Tribunal and the hearing has finished for the day, you may need to stay overnight in London (if you do not live nearby). Should this happen, we will organise and pay for overnight accommodation for you. We are only able to pay for your accommodation and not that of anyone who has accompanied you to the hearing, unless they are your carer and you need them to stay with you due to a disability.
If you are asked by us to give evidence, we will pay your reasonable travel costs to the venue. This is normally the fare for standard class travel. We may also pay for your overnight accommodation if the hearing is adjourned before you finish giving evidence and you live some way from central London. We cannot pay for loss of earnings.
Should you need to stay overnight, we will pay for and provide overnight accommodation in a hotel including breakfast. Should an evening meal be required, we will pay up to £25 towards your evening meal. This does not include alcoholic drinks.
We can only pay your expenses if you can provide a receipt.
The Case Officer will discuss with you, ahead of the hearing where possible, what expenses you may be entitled to claim for. If your circumstances require special arrangements, please explain these as soon as possible to the Case Officer.
If you require more information after the hearing or have concerns about something that happened at the hearing, please speak to the Case Officer as soon as you can.
Our Case Officers can be contacted at our Offices at:
Investigations and Enforcement Team
Bar Standards Board
289-293 High Holborn,
Tel. 020 7611 1444