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Court Etiquette (ACT)

If you are attending court in the ACT, it is important to respect the rules of court etiquette. This includes being punctual, dressing appropriately and behaving respectfully both inside and outside of the courtroom. This shows the court and the other parties that you are taking the matter seriously and maximises your chances of achieving a favourable outcome. This article outlines what you need to know about court etiquette in the ACT.

Court etiquette and dress code

If you are attending court in the ACT, whether you are a party to the proceeding, a witness or are just observing court, you should ensure you are dressed appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were attending a job interview or going to church.

Appropriate attire for court includes:

  • Dark colours;
  • Long pants;
  • Long skirts;
  • Closed shoes;
  • Collared shirt.

Clothing that should not be worn to court includes:

  • Casual attire such as shorts, singlets or thongs;
  • Short skirts;
  • Revealing tops or dresses;
  • Bright colours;
  • Offensive slogans or images;

If you are wearing sunglasses or a hat, these should be removed before you go inside the courtroom.

General behaviour in court

It is not permitted to take photos, videos or sound recordings anywhere within the court precinct without permission.

Smoking, alcohol and drugs are not permitted at court.

Animals (except assistance animals) are not allowed within the court precinct.

Food and drink are not permitted at court, except in the café.

Addressing the court

When you are inside a courtroom, do not speak unless addressed directly by the magistrate or a court officer. When addressing the magistrate, you should say, ‘Your Honour’.

Ensure your phone and other devices are switched off or on silent when you are inside the courtroom.

When you enter and exit the courtroom, you should bow or nod to the coat of arms mounted over the bench.

Magistrates Court etiquette

If you are attending the ACT Magistrates Court or Children’s Court, be sure you arrive well in advance of the time your matter is listed. You should be prepared to be at court for the whole day, as matters are rarely heard at the time they are listed. You should bring a book or something else to do while you are waiting. If you have children, make arrangements for them so that they do not have to wait around at court with you.

If you are facing traffic charges and there is the possibility you will have a license disqualification period imposed, do not drive to court.

Criminal matters in the Magistrates Court are generally heard in open court. This means that the court is open to members of the public who are not involved in the case, including the media.

If you are in court to watch a matter that you are not involved in, you should sit in the public gallery area of the court. If you are a party to a matter that is in court and you are representing yourself, you will be asked to take a seat at the bar table. If you have a lawyer representing you, you should sit near the front of the court while your lawyer will sit at the bar table.

Supreme and District Court etiquette

If you have a matter in the District Court or Supreme Court, be sure to arrive well before the matter is listed. Your matter will generally be heard on time. Ensure you know which courtroom your matter is to be heard in. You can check this by asking at the Registry or by checking the daily court list on the court website.

Contempt of court

If a person present at court fails to observe the rules of court etiquette, they may be given a verbal warning. If the behaviour persists, they may be charged with a criminal offence such as contempt of court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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