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Court Etiquette in the Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, all court attendees are expected to follow court etiquette to show respect for the legal system. A person can be asked to leave the courtroom if they do not show the appropriate level of respect. This article outlines the rules of court etiquette in the NT.

What to expect at court

Your first time going to court can be very daunting. It is best to familiarise yourself with the court, the procedural systems and the court etiquette in the NT before attending your own court proceeding.

Firstly, you can start by reading information on NT courts on their website. The Northern Territory Local Court website includes information on court etiquette in the NT, self-representation and locations of the courts. The Supreme Court website also includes similar information.

Another way to prepare for court is to observe another court matter before attending court for your own matter. This will familiarise you with court etiquette in the NT as well as court procedures. When observing a court matter in the NT, sit in the public gallery at the back of the courtroom. To find out what court matters are on, you can check the daily list prior to turning up at court.


When attending your court proceeding, you must be punctual and arrive before the scheduled time for your matter. You can find the correct courtroom by reading the daily lists online or at the courts on noticeboards and television screens. You can also ask the court staff. When you arrive at the correct courtroom, sit in the public gallery at the back until your matter has been called upon.

It is important to be aware that your matter will probably not be dealt with at the time it has been listed for. Criminal matters are generally listed to be heard at 10 am; however, this means that the criminal list starts being heard at 10 am. It just not mean that your specific matter will be heard at that time. Depending on the length of the list and the order in which matters are prioritised, your matter may not be on until later in the day. It is always a good idea to go to court prepared to be there for most of the day. This means making arrangements for care of any children and ensuring your car is parked somewhere without a time limit.

Behaviour in court

When you are inside a courtroom, it is important to behave appropriately. When entering and leaving the courtroom, it is customary to bow your head in the direction of the Coat of Arms behind the magistrate or judge as a sign of respect to the court. It is also important to observe the following rules while in the court room:

  • Do not talk unless called upon to speak by the magistrate or judge;
  • Listen and follow instructions from the magistrate or judge;
  • Address the magistrate or judge as ‘Your Honour’;
  • Turn off your mobile phone or switch it to silent;
  • Take off hats or sunglasses;
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum; and
  • Do not record or publish any of the proceeding.

Dress code in the Northern Territory courts

The dress code expected in NT courts is tidy and conservative.

The following attire is appropriate for court:

  • A suit;
  • Collared button up shirt;
  • Pants or skirts at or below knee level and
  • Clean closed in shoes.

Dress attire that is not appropriate includes:

  • Singlets;
  • Pants or skirts above knee level;
  • Open-toe shoes;
  • Sunglasses; or
  • Headwear that is not for religious purposes.

If you are dressed inappropriately, the magistrate or judge may warn you or ask you to leave.

Further assistance

The Northern Territory courts can provide additional support for going to court but cannot provide legal advice.

It is always advisable to seek legal advice. You can contact Go To Court Lawyers on 1300 636 846 or request a call-back at


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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