How to behave and what to expect in court
Courtrooms are formal places, with rules and standards to help matters proceed smoothly.
Rules for everyone
- Be on time. If you are late, your case might be heard without you, or a warrant might be issued for your arrest.
- Don’t smoke, eat or drink in courtrooms, or smoke in court buildings.
- You should be neatly and adequately dressed.
- If you must talk, do so quietly; don’t interfere with court proceedings.
- Stand when the Magistrate enters and leaves the courtroom, speaks to you and when you speak to them.
- Bow to the front of the court when you enter and leave the courtroom.
- Comply with the court’s security officers lawful direction. This could involve passing through a metal detector.
- Don’t bring weapons to any court building.
- Obey any instructions of the court officers and security guards.
How to address people in court
- Call the Magistrate ‘Your Honour’, ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’.
- Call others in the courtroom (such as lawyers and witnesses) by their title and surname; for example, Mrs Citizen.
- Be polite. Do not be critical or offensive to people in court.
Mobile phones and laptops
- Turn off your mobile phone and other devices unless the Magistrate lets you to have them on.
- While there’s no policy against using your laptop in the courtroom, please ask the Magistrate’s permission first.
Cameras and recorders
Unless you’re a journalist or you have specific approval first, don’t:
- bring tape recorders, cameras and other recording devices to court
- take photos, make video and sound recordings, televise, broadcast and othewise publish court proceedings.
If you are representing yourself
What to do in advance
- If you need a TV monitor, DVD player or other equipment, tell court staff well in advance. You may need to provide your own equipment.
- Come in to test the equipment at least two days before your case. Contact court staff to arrange this.
What to do on the day
To help everything run smoothly, give the court clerk or staff:
- any allowable documents
- any other information they ask for
- your list of witnesses and the order they will be called for (also give a copy of this list to the security guards).
- Your witnesses should wait outside the courtroom
You should also wait for your case to be called; if you must leave, let court staff know
Getting legal advice
- Speak to a Legal Aid officer if you need legal advice. Court staff and the magistrate can only advise you on correct court procedure.
- People with lawyers will be dealt with first.
- People who arrive by 9.45am and tell the court clerk they’re present will be dealt with next.
- People who arrive after court has begun for the day will be dealt with when the court clerk and Magistrate can get to their matter. If you haven’t spoken to the court clerk before court starts, you’ll have to wait until the court clerk can check who is present.