What to Expect in Australian Court Proceedings

If you’ve never been to court before, then attending a proceeding can be intimidating. That’s to be expected if you don’t know how, exactly, it works, especially if you’re a new migrant or just visiting. Knowing what to do and expect once you arrive could help ease your nerves and make the day go a lot smoother than anticipated.

What to Wear

It’s important to dress appropriately when going in for your court case. A suit and tie aren’t necessary, but you should aim to keep yourself neat and tidy when going in for your hearing. It could be several hours before you’re seen, so wearing comfortable clothes will make the wait more bearable.

Before the Hearing

Expect airport-style security when entering the courthouse. You and your belongings may be scanned before you’re allowed to enter the courthouse, and any prohibited items, like knives, will be confiscated. Once inside, you’ll need to find the courtroom your hearing will be taking place in. A list should be printed and displayed in the foyer and will have your case name and room number. If you can’t find the room, approach a court officer to ask for directions. Court officers wear either a red badge or a uniform and assist with the case.

Once you get to the appropriate courtroom, let the court officer there know you’ve arrived so you can be told where to wait for your case to be called. If you have a lawyer representing you during the hearing, find where they are and discuss where you’ll be waiting instead. The judicial officer will approach your lawyer at the bar table when your case is ready to be heard, or you will be called by the court officer to speak to the judicial officer if representing yourself. If you plan to leave the area, notify a court officer so your case isn’t heard without you being there.

During the Hearing

Courts have a formality to them. Some people may bow when they enter or leave the courtroom as a show of respect to the court, but bowing isn’t a requirement of anyone. While in the room, note the judge, who’s dressed in a red, black, or purple robe with a traditional wig, and the magistrate, dressed in black robes but no wig. 

Turn off your cell phone and sit quietly while in the courtroom, and do not interrupt the proceedings for whatever reason. Do not eat or drink, take photographs, or make audio or video recordings, and do not approach or speak with any member of the jury. Being caught with your phone out can lead the judicial officer to think you’re doing something illegal, which would result in you either being asked to leave the court or arrested. Video and audio recording is prohibited unless permission is gained beforehand. 

When your case is up, you’ll be led to either stand at a microphone or sit at the bar table. Stand when you speak and address the judge and magistrate as “your honour” when speaking to them.

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