In Queensland, courts are formal places and certain rules of etiquette apply to those who are attending as in any other formal setting such as workplaces and educational facilities.
You are expected to be respectful and you must behave appropriately at all times. You may be asked to leave the court by the magistrate or judge if you dress or behave inappropriately. If your behaviour disrupts proceedings, you could also be fined or sent to jail.
Going to court can be daunting; having an idea of what to expect will ensure that you are prepared and know how to behave appropriately.
The Queensland Courts website contains useful information about the Magistrates, District, and Supreme Courts, including court etiquette in Queensland.
You can also familiarise yourself with court etiquette and procedures by going to court and observing a proceeding before the commencement of your own. When doing so, sit in the public seating area in the back.
You can find information about which matters are to be heard that day on the daily law lists page of the Queensland Courts website. Not all cases are open to the public – you should check with the registry staff or the bailiff to make sure you can observe the proceedings.
When going to court, make sure you are punctual and arrive before the scheduled time. You can find the correct courtroom by reading the notice boards and television screens at the courthouse or asking someone at the registry counter. These are usually located in the court’s foyer.
If your matter is being heard in a Magistrates Court, wait outside the courtroom until you are called. In the District Court, the bailiff will be able to tell you when your case will be heard. If you are going to the Supreme Court, you should wait inside the courtroom. Ask the bailiff when your case is due to start.
If you are being held in custody, corrections officers or police will make sure you are brought to the correct court at the appropriate time. They will show you where to sit.
As you enter the courtroom, stand at the doorway and bow your head to the Coat of Arms behind the judge or magistrate as a sign of respect before finding your seat.
Courts are busy places so your matter may not yet have been called when you arrive. In this case, you should wait in the public seating area in the back until the court is ready to hear your case.
If you are bringing your matter to court, you should sit on the right side of the centre table in front of the judge or magistrate. If you are defending the matter, you should sit on the left side of the centre table.
You may represent yourself at court but it is always advisable to seek legal advice first.
The general rules of court etiquette in Queensland apply throughout a court proceeding to everyone in the courtroom. Make sure you:
- turn off your mobile phone – do not just switch it to silent
- turn off any alarms on your watch or any pagers
- do not talk unless called upon to speak by the judge or magistrate
- do not eat, drink or chew gum
- do not smoke
- do not record or publish any of the proceeding.
The magistrate or judge is the ‘boss’ of the courtroom. They sit at the front facing everyone else. Everyone in the courtroom must behave respectfully towards the magistrate or judge by:
- calling the magistrate or judge ‘Your Honour’
- bowing their head to the magistrate or judge when entering or exiting the courtroom
- standing and keeping quiet whenever the magistrate or judge enters or exits the courtroom
- standing whenever the magistrate or judge addresses them
- listening to and following any instructions given by the judge or magistrate.
To show your respect in a courtroom, you will need to dress in a tidy, modest, and smart manner. Conservative colours are best. The following is a suggestion of dress attire that may be suitable:
- a suit (but not essential)
- collared button up shirt (make sure it is buttoned to an appropriate point)
- pants or a skirt at or below knee level
- clean closed in shoes
- if you are representing yourself, it is recommended that you wear a jacket.
Dress attire that is not suitable:
- strapless or see-through tops
- clothing with obscene, offensive, or disrespectful slogans or graphics
- short shorts
- mini skirts
- hats or caps.
If you are dressed unsuitably, the judge or magistrate may reprimand you or ask you to leave.
Court etiquette in Queensland requires that, when leaving the courtroom, you again bow your head to the Coat of Arms behind the judge or magistrate as a sign of respect.
If you are unclear about court etiquette in Queensland, court staff will be able to assist. However, keep in mind that they are generally very busy, so it might be best to seek your information from organisations such as the Court Network.
If you have a legal question, you should seek advice from a lawyer as soon as you can.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 29 December 2015. 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.