Going to court? Not sure what to do, where to sit, or what to say? Here’s a ‘How to’ guide for when you go to court, from watching a case unfold to actively being a defendant or a witness.
There is a multitude of reasons for being in court, whether it’s to appear following on from a police charge; in a case as a defendant, juror or witness; or just to spectate the contest of wills in the legal arena. Regardless, knowing your way around the sometimes centuries old formalities of court is an absolute must. It’s not just a question of preventing embarrassment. Poor behaviour in court can net you a fine or, at the very worst, a trip to prison!
Regardless of your purpose at court, the first rule of thumb is to demonstrate respect to the judge or magistrate presiding over the court. Respect is demonstrated by:
– when entering or exiting the court, bow your head towards the judge or magistrate in acknowledgement. This doesn’t need to be overly dramatic, but a simple gesture to recognise their presence in the room will suffice.
– rising to your feet if the judge or magistrate enters or exits the courtroom. A bailiff in the court will announce ‘all rise’ to the room, signifying when this needs to take place, so look to them for your cue.
Following this, there are a series of general rules to abide by when in a courtroom setting, which if breached could result in your expulsion from the court and potentially a more serious charge:
– Do not make any sort of recording, video or audio, while in a courtroom. Your mobile phone should be turned off at all times.
– The courts are a food and drink free area! You will find allocated areas at the courthouse where you can eat, but while court is in session any consumption of food or drink is strictly prohibited, including chewing gum.
– The courtrooms are a non-smoking area, so you’ll have to leave the premises if need be.
– Be still and quiet. The courtroom has a solemn and quiet atmosphere that cannot be disrupted by any type of noise.
– Dress appropriately. A suit is not mandatory, but you should always be neatly attired and presented when going to court. At the very least a button-up, long sleeve shirt or blouse, closed-in shoes, and long pants or skirt at or below knee level are necessary. If you’re representing yourself, it is highly recommended that you wear a jacket and tie. Whatever you do, do not wear sunglasses, hats, thongs, dirty workwear or singlets/t-shirts into the courtroom. This should go without saying, but clothing with graphic images, offensive language, slogans or that are see-through are equally inappropriate.
If you have a more active role rather than just spectating, keep the following in mind:
– If you need to address the bench (where the judge or magistrate sits at the very front of the courtroom), always refer to them as ‘Your Honour’. If you do so, or if the judge or magistrate addresses you, always ensure that you stand up and are silent when the judge or magistrate speaks. Whatever you do, do not speak over the judge or magistrate while they are speaking.
– As a witness to a case, never speak about the case to other witnesses prior to presenting in the courtroom.
Queensland has an open court system that allows for any visitors during mentions, sentences, hearings and trials. As long as you abide by the rules contained here and any other the specific court might have you are most welcome to attend. The only exception to this is in limited special circumstances including where the judge orders the court closed, or in the Children’s Court where only the child’s immediate family is allowed in to support them.
If you have any more questions or need help managing your time in court, we are here to help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 FNQ LAW.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information and personal opinions. The information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in this article as an alternative to legal advice from an appropriately qualified professional. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult an appropriately qualified professional. You should never delay seeking legal advice, disregard legal advice, or commence or discontinue any legal action because of information in this newsletter. We do not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee that the use of information in this newsletter will lead to any particular outcome or result.
The Boland’s Centre
14 Spence Street
Cairns Queensland 4870
Level 1, 131 Edith Street
Innisfail Queensland 4860