When attending court in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), you will need to follow the required etiquette to show respect for the legal system. If you do not show the appropriate level of respect, the judicial officers may find you in contempt of court or ask you to depart from the courts.
Preparing for court in the Australian Capital Territory
Many people do not know what to expect when attending court for the first time. To prepare for court in the ACT, there are a number of ways to familiarise yourself with the court system.
You can start by reading up on the court system by perusing the information on the ACT courts website.
You can also attend a court proceeding to get an idea of what actually happens in the court before attending your own court matter. All court hearings are open to the public, unless specified otherwise. To find out which hearings are on at any given day, a daily list is provided on the Magistrates Court website and Supreme Court website, or next to the courtrooms. When observing a court proceeding, sit quietly in the public gallery in the back of the courtroom.
You should also check the date, time and location of your own court proceeding on the Magistrate Court daily lists or the Supreme Court daily lists before arriving. When attending your own court matter, you should arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time to give yourself enough time to find the right courtroom. You can also bring a family member or friend to support you through the court proceeding. They can sit in the public gallery while your matter proceeds.
Dress etiquette for court in the Australian Capital Territory
You will need to dress in clean and tidy clothes when attending court in the ACT. What you wear can affect people’s impression of you. You should dress to impress as if you are seeing someone who is important.
You should wear:
- Conservative colours such as dark colours and white;
- A suit, if you have one;
- Collared button up shirt which is buttoned to an appropriate point;
- Pants or skirt that is no shorter than at the knees; and
- Clean, closed-in shoes.
You should not wear:
- Sleeveless tops or dresses;
- Anything with a plunging neck-line;
- Short pants or skirts;
- Open-toed shoes such as thongs or sandals; or
- Sunglasses, hats or caps.
Entering and exiting the courtroom
When you enter and exit the courtroom in the ACT, you will need to bow to the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officers as a sign of respect.
Behaviour in the courtroom
You will need to behave appropriately in the courtroom in respect of the court system and its formalities.
- Sit silently unless called upon by the magistrate or judge (judicial officer);
- Follow the judicial officer’s instructions;
- Address the judicial officer as ‘Your Honour’; and
- Ensure all audio and / or mobile devices are switched off.
You should not consumer any food or drink, or record or publish any part of the proceedings.
For further assistance
If you are a victim or a witness going to court, you may seek non-legal assistance from support services such as Victim Support ACT. Otherwise, it is always advised to seek legal assistance before attending your own court matter.