Preparing and questioning witnesses
Calling your own witnesses
You can call witnesses as part of your defence, provide testimonials (i.e. references) from a dental professional, healthcare professional or patients relevant to the proceedings, or call character witnesses to give evidence in person. We do not provide for any travel or accommodation costs.
If you wish to call your own witnesses, you should:
- Ensure each witness produces a signed and dated witness statement ahead of the hearing.
- Provide your witness statements to the GDC within the timescale outlined in the ‘Standard directions’.
The GDC legal team will tell you:
- If they need any of your witnesses to attend to answer questions.
- About when the witnesses are likely to be required to attend.
- How to make alternative arrangements if they can’t attend in person.
You need to ask your witnesses to attend the hearing.
If any of your witnesses are unwilling to attend, or are willing but are concerned about their employer, you can apply to the committee for a witness summons to be issued - ordering them to attend the hearing.
If you need a summons, raise it with hearings case management officer as early as possible, who will explain how to make this application.
When preparing witness statements for yourself, or any of your witnesses please remember that:
- It should ‘tell their story’ setting out the necessary information in their own words, in the order the events occurred, or by using headings to separate out different issues.
- It is a statement of fact, not opinion.
- It should deal with all factual issues in the case.
- It should be signed and dated by the witness.
- It can be helpful to divide the statement into numbered paragraphs.
- It may be necessary to attach supporting documents (called ‘exhibits’) as it forms part of the witness’ evidence e.g. copy of an email.
- It must end with a statement confirming the information in the statement is true e.g. ‘I believe that the facts stated in this witness.
You or the GDC may obtain a report from an expert witness to give an opinion on issues relevant to your case, for example:
- a clinician in a case about inadequate care
- relevant consultant in a health related case.
The expert will provide a report and comment on whether your actions met the expected standards. An expert witness may be required to attend a hearing to answer any questions that you, the GDC or the committee may have.
You might disagree with the expert’s opinion and consider instructing your own expert, but this is not compulsory. If you do instruct an expert:
- It must be someone with demonstrable and relevant qualifications who has expertise in the area under consideration.
- You will have to pay for their services.
The expert witness’ role is solely to assist the committee in understanding the issues in the case. They take a neutral role and do not champion the case on behalf of the party instructing them.
Preparing questions for GDC witnesses
You’ll normally be given an opportunity to question witnesses called by the GDC. This is called cross-examination. You will not be allowed to cross-examine the GDC’s witness if:
- you’re representing yourself
- the complaint is of a sexual nature against you, and
- the witness is the alleged victim.
In these circumstances the Hearings Service will arrange for a legal representative to ask questions of the witness on your behalf.
When preparing your questions, please consider the following:
- Write down the questions you want to ask the witness when you review their witness statement and the hearing bundle. Add to this list while you’re listening to the witness’ responses at the hearing.
- Ask your questions in a logical order e.g. chronological, or the order the issues have been set out in the notice of hearing.
- Ask one question at a time.
- Think about whether to ask closed (answered yes or no) or open questions (require elaboration).
- Ask about inconsistencies e.g. if a witness has said something different to what was in their witness statement.
- Don’t argue or become confrontational. Questioning witnesses in that manner will be stopped.
Answering questions at your hearing
If you give evidence at your hearing, you may be questioned by the Committee or the GDC’s case presenter. Please familiarise yourself with your witness statement and any other documents submitted.
Preparing questions for your own witnesses
A witness statement sets out a witnesses’ recollection of the events. Some statements have documents attached as exhibits. The written witness statement will normally stand as a witness’ main evidence, which is referred to as ‘evidence-in-chief’. This means there is normally no need for you to ask your own witnesses questions.
Your witnesses may be asked questions by the GDC and the committee.