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Attending Court In Canberra

When attending court in Canberra, you will need to observe court etiquette. It’s important to follow court etiquette in Canberra and elsewhere in the ACT to show respect for the legal system and to demonstrate that you are taking your court matter seriously. If you do not behave appropriately in court, there may be consequences such as being asked to leave the courtroom or even being charged with the offence of contempt of court.

Preparing for court in Canberra

A lot of people don’t know what to expect when attending court for the first time. There are a number of ways to become familiar with the court system. Firstly, you can read up on the court system on the ACT courts website. Secondly, you can also attend court to get an idea of what actually happens in the court before attending your own matter. 

While the majority of adult criminal matters are dealt with in open court (menaing the public can attend), certain adult matters and all Children’s Court matters are heard in closed court (meaning persons who are not involved cannot attend). 

To find out what court matters are listed on any given day, you can consult the daily list provided on the Magistrates Court website and Supreme Court website, or in the court foyer. When observing a court proceeding, remain quietly in the public gallery at the back of the court.

You should always check the date, time and location of your own court matter. You should always arrive early to ensure you have enough time to find the right courtroom. It’s also important to be aware that your matter will probably not be heard at the time it is listed for. You should come prepared to be at court for the whole day. 

Court etiquette in Canberra – dress code 

Court etiquette in Canberra requires people to dress in clean and tidy clothes. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though you were going to church or to a job interview.  

Clothing that is suitable includes:

  • conservative colours like dark colours and white;
  • a suit;
  • collared button up shirt;
  • pants or skirt that is no shorter than knee-length; and
  • clean, closed-in shoes.

Clothing that is not suitable includes:

  • sleeveless or revealing tops or dresses;
  • short pants or skirts;
  • clothing with offensive or obscene slogans or images 
  • open-toed shoes; or
  • sunglasses or hats.

Entering and exiting the courtroom

When you enter and exit a courtroom in the ACT, you should bow to the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officers as a sign of respect for the legal system.

Behaviour in the courtroom

When inside a courtroom in the ACT, you should:

  • be silent unless called upon by the magistrate or judge;
  • stand up when the magistrate or judge addresses you;
  • follow any instructions the magistrate or judge gives you;
  • call the magistrate or judge as ‘Your Honour’; and
  • ensure all devices are switched off.

Turning off electronic devices in a courtroom is a matter of respect for the proceedings and those involved. Electronic devices can cause distractions, disrupt the proceedings and show disrespect for the court. Additionally, electronic devices may interfere with the sound recording equipment used in the courtroom and compromise the integrity of the record of proceedings. Turning off all electronic devices, you are helping to maintain an orderly and respectful environment in the courtroom, which is necessary for the administration of justice.

In a courtroom, eating or drinking can be distracting to others and disrupt the proceedings. It is considered inappropriate and disrespectful behavior in a formal setting like a courtroom.

Recording or publishing any part of the proceedings, including on social media, without permission from the court is prohibited by law. This includes taking photographs, making audio or video recordings, or live streaming. This is because the court needs to maintain control over the proceedings and ensure that they are conducted in a fair and impartial manner. Publishing or distributing information from the proceedings without permission can potentially prejudice the proceedings, compromise the privacy of the parties involved, or otherwise interfere with the administration of justice. Additionally, recording or publishing proceedings may also be a violation of copyright law and can result in legal consequences.

For further assistance

If you are a victim or a witness going to court to give evidence, you may seek non-legal assistance from Victim Support ACT. 

f you require legal advice or representation in relation to any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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