Courts are busy places and emotions are often running high. Going to court can be a stressful experience and that is why there are rules on how to behave in court to ensure everyone gets a fair hearing.
Court rooms have strict rules that everyone must follow, whether you are:
- a member of the public
- a witness
- a defendant in a criminal matter or a party to a civil action
- a lawyer
If you don’t follow the rules of the Court you can be asked to leave, or in serious cases you can be fined or sent to jail. This is known as being in contempt of court.
Preparing for court
Once you have been given a date and time to be at court these are the things you should do:
- be on time or about 15 minutes early - if you are late your case might be heard without you and a warrant might be issued for your arrest. If you are a bit early you will have time to go through security screening, look at the court lists to work out which courtroom your matter will be heard in and where it is and to compose yourself.
- dress in clean, smart clothes and shoes – to be dressed smartly will help you to be confident when you are talking to the court and also show the Judge and everyone that you take the court proceeding seriously. You may also want to ensure you have a light jacket as the courtrooms can get cold and you may be waiting for a little while.
- bring any documents you need for your court case including any references or medical records you want the court to read.
- be prepared for possible delays as the running of the Court depends on how many hearings are listed for that day, how many judges are available, and how many custody matters there are. In order to prepare for this park in an appropriate long term carpark, arrange child care or after school care etc, or inform your work you may not be available for the day.
Arriving in court
When you get to court you will be required to go through security screening and any potential weapons will be taken from you. If you refuse to go through the screening you will be refused entry.
When you enter a courtroom you should always:
- switch off your mobile phone
- remove sunglasses or a hat
- do not bring food or drink into the courtroom
- not smoke
When you find out which courtroom you are in you should go to the courtroom and introduce yourself to the court officer who is in that court. They should be easily identifiable by their uniform and ID card. Tell the court officer your name, why you are at court, if you are a defendant in a criminal matter what you are going to be doing in court that day (for example, if you want to get legal advice) and if you have any time constraints (for example, having to pick up children from school). All of this information will help the court officer to make sure your matter is brought to the attention of the Judge at an appropriate time.
You should always follow the instructions of all court officers and security guards.
It is important for the efficient and smooth running of court matters that common courtesy is practised by everyone in the court. A few things that you are expected to do while you are in a court are as follows:
- sit quietly without talking unless you are required to speak by the Judge
- do not film, record or broadcast proceedings
- stand and bow when the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom
- call the Judge ‘your honour’ ‘sir’ or ‘madam’
- do not stand in the doorway
- bow when entering or leaving the court
- stand when you speak to the court
- do not use offensive language
When a 'closed court' light appears above the door it means the proceedings are closed to the public and you must not enter unless you are given permission.
If you are appearing via a video or sound link, the same rules apply as if you were in the courtroom.
If you need special equipment for your case, for example, a TV monitor and DVD player, you will need to advise the court staff before you arrive.
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