Preparing for court


How should I prepare for court? 

Many of us will need to attend court at some point during our lives, and it can be an intimidating and confusing experience.

This article will look at a few things you can do to be as prepared as possible for your day in court.

What are the most common reasons I’ll have to go to court?

Challenging a traffic fine, appearing as a defendant or a witness, or performing jury duty are some of the main reasons people need to attend court, but there are things you can do in every circumstance to make sure you are as prepared as you possibly can be.

Paperwork: Have all your notes and necessary pieces of paper ready beforehand. Extra copies are always a good idea, for the judge or the other side. You might want to write down ahead of time what you are planning to say in court. You’ll probably spend a lot of time waiting around, so use that time to go over your notes … it will help you feel more prepared. 

Dress Code: Courts are formal spaces, and a certain level of respect is expected from everyone there. Thongs, or clothes with swear words written on them are too casual and inappropriate for court. Make sure your clothing is clean and tidy, along with the clothes of any family members or friends attending court with you.

Behaviour: Turn your mobile phone to silent or put it away completely if you don’t need it. It’s illegal to record proceedings in courts … either by taking photos, video, or audio recording. This rule will be strictly enforced.

Where should I go?

If you are a defendant and you have received a Court Attendance Notice [CAN], you will find a lot of helpful information on that. Court lists will be posted in the court foyer, and show which matters are being heard in which courtroom. You can find your name or matter on the list. If you can’t see it or are unsure, approach the court office and ask for help … they can sometimes check for you, or help you to find it. You’re also allowed to ask questions of the court staff, including the magistrate or judge. 

What will happen in the court room?

Make sure you observe proper court etiquette. You should bow you head slightly to the judge or magistrate as you enter and leave the court room if they are sitting at the bench. A small bow is enough: there is no need to curtsey or bow too deeply.

In a local court, the Magistrate will be sitting facing the room, wearing black robes. They will often have an assistant, who will be passing papers to sheriffs and lawyers. Court sheriffs will be uniformed. If you have a lawyer, you will sit with them either at the bench, or in the courtroom seats. It’s proper to always stand when you are addressed by the Magistrate or judge.

Judges in higher courts will wear coloured robes of red or purple, as well as wigs. If there is a jury, they will sit to the judges left. You should address magistrates and judges as ‘Your Honour’ when you reply to them. 

Remember, the more prepared for court you are, the more confident you’ll feel.