Summons a witness

A summons is a legal document that says someone must produce documents or appear at VCAT on a certain date to give verbal evidence. The person summonsed may attend a VCAT hearing by phone or videoconference, and can send summonsed documents to VCAT by email.

In the Summons to appear form, you can ask a person to:

  • be a witness and speak at a hearing – what we call 'to give evidence'
  • provide documents
  • provide other evidence (select 'produce documents' on the form).

Before you apply, ask the person to be a witness or provide the evidence you believe is relevant to the case. If the person refuses, you can apply to VCAT for a summons.

Only summons a witness if that person is likely to give evidence or produce documents that are relevant to the case. If you summons a person who can't give relevant evidence or you do it for an improper purpose, we may set aside the summons and you may have to pay costs.

Any party can make a request to VCAT to summons a witness. To do this you need to complete a form, attend a hearing and send (serve) the summons.

There are costs to apply for a summons, including a VCAT fee and covering costs of the person summonsed.

Find out what to do if you're summonsed to VCAT

Steps to ask for and send (serve) a summons

1 Complete the Summons to appear form

You need to ask us if you can issue someone a summons by completing a Summons to appear form. In the form, it's important the details of the person or corporation you are summonsing is correct. If they're not, it may cause delays.

If you're summonsing a corporation

If you’re summonsing a corporation, you need to send the summons to its registered address.

Buy an ASIC Current Company Extract to fill out the form correctly.

On the Summons to appear form, write down the name and address of the company that appears on their ASIC extract.

If you're summonsing an interstate corporation, make sure you attach a copy of this ASIC extract when sending us your form.

When sending the summons to the corporation, you can direct it to a contact person you want it delivered to. For example:

This Company Pty Ltd
c/o Contact name
King Road
Melbourne Vic 3000

How to apply if the person or corporation is interstate

2 Send the summons to VCAT

Email us the completed form VCAT, or you can give it to us in person at our head office.

If you want to summons an interstate corporation you must provide us an ASIC extract with your application. If you don’t it may cause delays.

If you give it to us in person, you must give us three copies of the summons. We keep the original summons and give you back the copies, sealed with the VCAT stamp.

3 We decide if you can issue the summons

After we receive your form we set a date for a hearing to decide if you can issue a summons. The hearing could be:

  • a short directions hearing to return the documents – the parties can inspect and copy the documents and use them to prepare for the final hearing
  • a longer hearing if it's a summons to give evidence.

We may refuse to issue a summons. If our principal registrar refuses to issue the summons, you can apply to VCAT for a direction that a summons be issued by using the Application for directions hearings or orders form.

If we agree to your request, we will issue a summons after you pay the fee.

4 Serve the summons

Send the summons to the person or corporation. We call this ‘serving the summons’. Depending on who the summons is for, there are specific ways to send (serve) the summons.

You also need to give the person you summons ‘conduct money’ or payment to cover their travel costs and other costs of coming to VCAT.

You must also send (serve) a copy of the summons to each party in the case.

5 Complete the affidavit

Complete the affidavit to confirm that you sent (served) the summons according to the law. This is when you swear and sign an oath in front of an authorised witness.

If you serve the summons to a person or corporation, use the Affidavit of Service form. In this download, there is a list of some of the people who are authorised to witness your affidavit.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety has information about how to complete an affidavit and who is authorised to witness you sign it

6 Send us the signed affidavit

Send the signed affidavit to us with a copy of the summons to appear, or bring them to the first hearing you attend.

7 Pay the witness' expenses

Pay the summonsed witness’s expenses so they can come to VCAT.

What to do if you've been summonsed

If you get a summons and you want to object, you must send us your objection in writing as soon as possible after you receive the summons.

We will decide whether the summonsed witness needs to attend before the hearing date.

If you don't object, or your objection isn't approved as you don't have a lawful reason to miss the hearing, we may issue a warrant for your arrest.

What to include in an affidavit to support your application

You must write and swear to an affidavit. In your affidavit you must swear that:

  • it's in the interest of justice for the witness to give evidence in person or provide evidence such as documents
  • there is enough time for the witness to follow the summons without hardship or inconvenience
  • the witness is only required to attend to provide documents or other physical evidence.

See a sample affidavit in support of an interstate summons to appear.

If the person or corporation is outside Victoria

You can apply to summons a witness or evidence from outside Victoria. This is also called a 'subpoena'.

Only our president or one of our vice presidents can issue interstate summonses. If you want to summons a corporation, you must provide us with an ASIC extract with your application. If you don't it may cause delays.

Together with your summons form, fill out and give us:

How to fill out and send Form 5 - Notice to witness who is outside Victoria

Form 5 - Notice to witness who is outside Victoria sets out the rights and obligations of the witness being served.

You must fill it out and give it to us with your application.

In the form:

  • the 'date of compliance' is the same as the date you write on the Summons to Appear form
  • the 'person at whose request the subpoena was issued' is your name.

What to send to the person or corporation summonsed from interstate

You can only send the interstate summons after:

  • our president or one of our vice presidents approves the summons and makes an order
  • we issue you the summons with the VCAT seal stamped on it.

After that happens, send the witness:

  • the signed summons with the VCAT seal
  • the completed Form 5 that we've returned to you
  • the order from us that approves the summons.

We may make an order that says the summonsed person or corporation doesn't have to come to VCAT if they give us the evidence by the date we set.

See example orders for summons to appear when recipient is interstate.

How to send (serve) the summons

You must send (serve) a copy of the summons that has the VCAT seal. You must serve it with enough time for the witness to prepare the evidence for a hearing.

You can't send a summons to a PO Box address.

When you serve the summons, you must also give the witness enough money to cover their expenses.

You must also send (serve) a copy of the summons to each party after you send (serve) to the witness. You do not need to send parties a sealed copy. You can send it via email, by post, or deliver it in person.

To an individual

There are three ways you can send (serve) a summons to an individual:

  • deliver it personally
  • send it by post, email or fax to the person at their usual or last known residential or business address, or
  • leave it at the person's usual or last known residential or business address with a person on the premises who appears to be at least 16 years old and lives or is employed there.

To a corporation

There are three ways you can send (serve) a summons to a corporation:

  • deliver it personally to the registered address as shown on the ASIC Current Company Extract
  • send it by post to the registered address as shown on the ASIC Current Company Extract
  • in any other way documents can be sent to a corporation. For example, if ASIC gives you other information about how to contact them.

The registered address may be different to the corporation's principal place of business address or any address shown on the corporation's letterhead.

To an incorporated association

To send (serve) a summons to an incorporated association, send it by post, email or fax to the address or number shown on the Incorporated Association Extract.

Expenses you may need to pay to a summonsed witness

You must cover expenses for a witness to travel to VCAT or to send evidence to us. We call this 'conduct money'. How much to pay depends on who you summons and what you want them to do. It is different for each summons. Give the person summonsed this money when you summons them, or as soon as possible after you send (serve) the summons. If you don't, the summons could be invalid.

For example, you may need to pay them for:

  • return travel between the person's home or workplace and VCAT
  • accommodation, if they have to stay overnight
  • printing or photocopying costs.

You can give them money or an equivalent such as pre-paid travel. You must organise with the person you summons how and when you will pay their expenses.

After responding to the summons, the person summonsed can ask us to make an order that you pay extra costs, for example, the cost of retrieving documents. We consider the witness' reasons for needing extra payment. We then make a decision on whether we agree that you should pay those additional costs.

Related pages

Prepare evidence

Evidence helps you prove your side of the story and helps the VCAT member to decide how the matter should be resolved.

Witness and witness statements

Find out about different types of witnesses and what’s involved if you are asked to be a witness in a VCAT case.