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Court Etiquette in the ACT

When attending court in the 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 ask you to leave the courts, or in extreme cases, have you charged with contempt of court. This article outlines the rules of court etiquette in the ACT.

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. Firstly, you can read up on the court system by perusing the information on the ACT courts website. Secondly, you can 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 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 ACT

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;
  • Collared button up shirt which is buttoned to an appropriate point;
  • Pants or skirt that is no shorter than the knees; and
  • Clean, closed-in shoes.

You should not wear:

  • Sleeveless tops or dresses;
  • Anything too revealing;
  • 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.

You should:

  • 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.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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