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Court Etiquette In Sydney

Court etiquette in Sydney and the rest of New South Wales is important because it is a way of displaying respect for the courts and the legal system and showing that you are taking your court matter seriously. The rules of court etiquette must be followed by everyone who attends court. If court etiquette is not followed and offence is caused, the judicial officer may order the person responsible to leave the court or, in more serious cases, may have them charged with contempt of court.

Court can be a daunting experience but you can ensure that you are well prepared by becoming clear on the rules of court etiquette. One way to do this is by familiarising yourself with the New South Wales Court website. Another is by attending court and watching some other proceedings before your matter is heard.

Open court

In NSW, most court matters are dealt with in openc ourt, meaning that proceedings are open to the public including the media. However, NSW courts have the power to exclude the public under particular circumstances (for example, when the matter involves a child). If you are attending a court for a matter that you are not involved in, you should remain in the public seating area at the back of the room and refrain from interrupting.

Court etiquette in Sydney and punctuality

When attending court in Sydney, you should arrive early to allow enough time to check for any changes and find the right courtroom. You can do this by checking the court list that is displayed in the foyer at court, or via the NSW Online Registry by searching for the matter by name.

Local Court matters are generally placed in a list, and most lists start being heard at 9:30 am. However, you should always check when your matter is listed. If your matter is listed for a particular time, this does not mean it will necessarily be heard at that time. Your matter may not in fact be called on in court until much later in the day. You should therefore come to court prepared to be there for the whole day. Take something to do while you wait. If you have children, make arrangements for them so that they do not have to spend the day at court. 

General behaviour

Court etiquette in Sydney requires attendees to bow to the Coat of Arms behind the bench when entering and exiting a courtroom in NSW as a sign of respect.

You must always behave in an orderly manner when in a court. You should wait in the public seating area until your matter is called, or outside the court room if there is not enough room for you inside.

If you have a lawyer representing you, they will let you know what to expect during your court appearance. If you are unrepresented, you should arrive at court early and advise the court officer that you have arrived.

In courtrooms in NSW, the following rules should be observed:

  • Turn off mobile phones and other devices;
  • Do not speak unless addressed directly by the judicial officer;
  • Do not eat or drink in court;
  • Remove hats or sunglasses;
  • Do not record or publish anything about the proceeding, including on social media.

As you enter the court room, the judge or magistrate will be at the bench facing the rest of the courtroom.

While you are in court make sure you do the following:

  • address the judge or magistrate as “Your Honour’;
  • always be polite;
  • bow when entering or exiting the courtroom;
  • stand silently whenever the judge or magistrate enters or exits the court;
  • stand any time the judicial officer speaks to you;
  • listen to and follow any instructions given by the judge or magistrate.

Court etiquette in Sydney and dress code

Court etiquette in Sydney and NSW requires that you wear clothes that are neat, clean and conservative when attending court. This shows respect and demonstrates that you are making your best effort and taking the matter seriously.

You should wear:

  • long trousers and long-sleeved shirts;
  • skirts knee-length or longer;
  • dress pants or dresses;
  • clean closed shoes;

You should not wear:

  • singlets or strapless tops;
  • thongs
  • clothing with offensive or obscene slogans or graphics;
  • skirts or shorts that are shorter than knee length.


It is important to observe court etiquette in Sydney and New South Wales as this reflects well on you. Should you fail to observe with court etiquette, and engage in serious breaches of court etiquette, such as swearing or deliberately disobeying an instruction, you may receive a warning or reprimand, or even be charged with contempt of court. This offence carries imprisonment for up to 28 days.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.  

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