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Court Etiquette in NSW

Adopting the appropriate court etiquette in NSW (New South Wales) is important as it displays respect for the courts and the legal system.

The rules of etiquette must be followed by everyone who attends the court including the public. If this etiquette is not followed, the judicial officers may order you to leave the court or, in more serious cases, you will be issued with a fine or imprisoned.

Court Etiquette in NSW

Before you attend court

You can ensure that you are well prepared for your court proceeding and are clear on the rules of court etiquette in NSW by getting to know the court system prior to attending your court matter. You can familiarise yourself by reading the New South Wales Court website, or by attending and watching a similar court proceeding sometime before yours is due to be heard.

The New South Wales Courts website explains what to expect at court and appropriate court etiquette in NSW.

If you are attending and watching a court proceeding, you should sit in the public seating area in the back of the courtroom without interrupting the proceeding. Most proceedings are open to the public apart from those involving family matters and Children’s Court matters.

When attending your proceeding, arrive early to allow enough time to check for any changes to your court proceeding and to find where you need to go. You can find the correct courtroom by checking the printed court list displayed in the foyer. Court officers may also assist you with finding the correct courtroom and with questions on rules and procedures in the courtroom.

Entering and exiting the courtroom

It is customary to bow your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judges before entering and exiting the courtrooms in NSW as a sign of respect to the legal system.

Etiquette in the courtroom

You must behave in an orderly and respectful manner when you are in the courtroom. You also need to maintain an appropriate standard of behaviour and dress. You should wait in the public seating area located in the back of the courtroom until your matter is called.

In the courtroom in New South Wales, the following rules of etiquette should be maintained:

  • Turn of all mobile and electronic devices
  • Do not speak unless instructed by the judicial officer
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke
  • Do not record or publish any of the proceeding, including by posting details on social media.

Court etiquette towards the judicial officers

The judicial officer sits at the front facing the rest of the courtroom and manages the proceedings.  Everyone in the courtroom must behave respectfully towards the judicial officer by:

  • addressing them as ‘Your Honour’
  • bowing their head at the judicial officer when entering or exiting the courtroom
  • standing silently whenever the judicial officer enters or exits the courtroom
  • standing any time the judicial officer speaks to them
  • listening to and following any instructions given by the judicial officer.

Dress etiquette

Court etiquette in NSW requires that you wear clothes that are conservative and clean in the courtroom. This not only shows respect but demonstrates to the court that you are putting in your best effort and taking the matter seriously, especially when self-representing.

You should dress in:

  • subtle or conservative colours
  • long trousers and a long sleeved shirt for men
  • below knee-length skirts, dress pants or dresses for women
  • clean closed-in shoes

You should not dress in:

  • bright colours
  • singlets or strapless tops
  • transparent tops
  • clothing with provocative slogans or graphics
  • denim
  • skirts or shorts that are above knee length
  • thongs
  • sunglasses
  • hats or caps.

In cases where court attendees are not dressed respectfully, the judicial officer may ask you to leave the courtroom.

Getting help about court etiquette in NSW

If you need further information on procedures of court or court etiquette in NSW, you can contact LawAccess NSW.

If you need legal advice, call Go To Court Lawyers on 1300 636 846 or request a call-back at gotocourt.com.au.

This article reflects the state of the law as at 27 April 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.

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