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The course of the trial is broadly similar in criminal and civil proceedings, although there are significant procedural differences between jury and non jury trials. The plaintiff or prosecution (P) will give an opening speech outlining his case against the accused or civil defendant (D) and identifying the facts in issue. P will then call witnesses and adduce evidence in support of his case. Each of these witnesses can in turn be questioned by P to have relevant testimony elicited from them (‘examination-in-chief’), questioned by D to have that testimony tested (‘cross-examination’) and again questioned by P on matters raised in cross-examination (‘re-examination’). At the close of P’s case (‘half-time’) D may make a submission to the court that P has not even been able to establish a prima facie case against him, although this is rare in civil trials. If the submission of no case to answer fails it is D’s turn to adduce evidence in support of his defence (and any counterclaim he might have if the proceedings are civil). D may make an opening speech (subject to a restriction in criminal trials imposed by s. 2 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1898) and will then call his witnesses and adduce evidence. D’s witnesses will be examined in chief, cross-examined and re-examined in the same way that P’s witnesses were. In civil trials D and P will finish off by each making a closing speech and any necessary submissions on the law.
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