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State Administrative Tribunal

Summons

Witnesses are an important part of the SAT process. They provide evidence during the hearing to support an applicant or respondent.

You don’t need to bring witnesses to a directions hearing. At a directions hearing the Member will discuss with you the number, nature and expertise of the witnesses you wish to rely on if your matter goes on to a final hearing.

If you rely on a witness in your matter, you will have to file a witness statement with SAT a reasonable time prior to a hearing – usually 7 to 14 days before. The dates for witness statements to be filed will be discussed at the directions hearing.   

What is a summons to witness?

A summons to witness is a legal document SAT can use to compel a person to attend or produce a document or other material before SAT.

A summons may be issued at the request of a party, or by SAT. A party to the proceeding can request a summons if a person is, or may be, unwilling to give evidence or to provide documents to SAT. The summons generally requires the attendance of the person summoned at the final hearing. A party who is summoned is required by law to comply, and commits a criminal offence if they do not do so.

When should I request a summons to witness?

You should try to get the required documents before requesting a summons.

A summons is usually directed at ‘third parties’ – people other than the applicant and respondent.

A summons is not usually directed to the applicant or respondent as SAT will usually require that they file and give to the other party documents and witness statements during the normal course of the proceeding.

Where a party desires that documents sought from a third party be produced prior to the final hearing, the party should seek an order under s 35(1) of the State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004. This may be appropriate where, for example, a large number of documents are expected, or when you expect the documents to be particularly important for the proceedings.

What is a document?

A document is anything in writing. This includes contracts, invoices and letters, as well as emails, SMS messages and web pages. The test for whether a document can be summoned is whether the information is relevant to the proceeding.

How do I apply for a summons to witness?

A party seeking the issue of a summons to witness should submit a copy of the Summons to Witness form to SAT and pay the corresponding fee.

SAT will consider whether your draft summons to witness is suitable to be issued. If SAT issues your summons, you will be notified that the summons to witness is available to collect. It is then your responsibility to serve the summons on the witness.

If your draft summon is not considered suitable, you will be notified accordingly.

How do I serve a summons to witness?

Serving a documents means giving it to the person it is addressed to. If SAT issues the summons you requested, you must personally serve it on the person it is addressed to. This means physically giving a copy of the summons to witness to the person, or leaving it with them and explaining the document if they do not accept it. Rule 31 of the State Administrative Tribunal Rules 2004 has more information on the requirements for personal service. The Rules also provide information on service on a corporation, unincorporated associated and natural persons not of full legal capacity, and what to do if someone refuses to accept the summons to witness.

What happens to summoned documents?

The documents can be accessed by the parties to the proceedings. They will be held by SAT until their release is ordered, or until the proceedings are finalised and the appeal period has expired.

The quality and presentation of expert evidence is important in assisting SAT to make reliable and correct decisions in the many areas of its jurisdiction. Experience shows that when expert witnesses understand and observe their obligation to bring an objective assessment of the issues within their expertise to a proceeding, their evidence is of great assistance. When expert witnesses are not objective and assume the role of advocate for a party, their credibility suffers.

To maximise the value of expert evidence, SAT has developed standard procedures requiring expert conferrals to prepare joint reports, and for experts to give evidence together. For more information on this process see the Expert Conferral page.

If you are served with a summons to witness and are prepared to attend the hearing, produce the requested documents, or both, you should do so at the nominated time and date.

If you believe that there are grounds to have the summons set aside, or to limit access to any document, you may make an application at the hearing related to the summons. This application can be made orally. You should be ready to give evidence or produce documents, to the extent reasonable, in the event that your application is unsuccessful.

Useful Resources

State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004

State Administrative Tribunal Rules 2004


Last updated: 22 August 2023

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