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Court Etiquette (NSW)

 Following court etiquette is important when attending court in New South Wales because it displays respect for the courts and the legal system and shows you are taking your matter seriously. The rules of etiquette must be followed by everyone who attends the court including those who are not involved in the proceedings. If court etiquette is not followed, the judicial officers may order a person to leave the court or, in more serious cases, the person may be charged with contempt of court.

Court can be a daunting experience if you are not familiar with the many rules and procedures. You can ensure that you are well prepared to attend court and are clear on the rules of court etiquette by getting to know the court system prior to your court date. You can familiarise yourself with the New South Wales Court website, or by attending and watching similar court proceedings before your matter is due to be heard.

Open Court

The NSW justice system embraces the principle of “open justice”, being that proceedings are open to the public and the media. The NSW Courts have no inherent power to exclude the public, except in particular circumstances. If you are attending a court proceeding that you are not involved in, you should sit in the public seating area in the back and refrain from interrupting the proceeding.

However, some matters can proceed in a “closed court”, for example in the Children’s Court of NSW. Other matters, may be closed for a variety of reasons, such as proceedings involving a child victim of sexual assault.

Court Etiquette And Punctuality

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

In the Local Court, matters are generally placed in a list,  and most Local Court lists start at 9:30am. However, this can  sometimes change and you should always check when your matter is listed. Also, just because your matter is listed for a particular time, this does not mean it will necessarily be called at that time, and your matter may not be called until much later in the day. Accordingly, you should come to court prepared to be there for most of the day. Take a book or something else to do, and if you have children, make arrangements for them so that they do not have to wait around with you.

General Behaviour

Court etiquette requires everyone to bow to the Coat of Arms behind the judge or magistrate when you enter and exit a courtroom in New South Wales as a sign of respect to the legal system.

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

If you are represented by a solicitor, they can help you navigate your court appearance. If you are unrepresented, you should arrive early and speak with the court cfficer to advise them you have arrived at court.

In courtrooms in New South Wales, the following rules of etiquette should be observed:

  • Turn off mobile devices;
  • Do not speak unless instructed by the judicial officer;
  • Do not eat or drink;
  • Remove hats or sunglasses from your head;
  • Do not record or publish any of the proceeding, including posts on social media.

As you enter the court room, the judge or magistrates will be seated at the front of the court facing the rest of the courtroom.

Whilst in court make sure you observe the following:

  • addressing the judge or magistrate as “Your Honour;
  • always being polite when addressing any officer of the Court;
  • bowing when entering or exiting the courtroom;
  • standing silently whenever the judge or magistrate enters or exits the courtroom;
  • standing any time the judicial officer speaks to you;
  • listening to and following any instructions given by the judge or magistrate.

Court Etiquette And Dress Code

Court etiquette in NSW requires that you wear clothes that are neat, clean and conservative in the courtroom. This shows respect and demonstrates that you are putting in your best effort and taking the matter seriously.

You should dress in:

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

You should not dress in:

  • singlets or strapless tops;
  • clothing with provocative slogans or graphics;
  • skirts or shorts that are above knee length.


It is important to observe court etiquette when attending court in New South Wales as this reflects well on you and may assist you in your proceedings. Should you fail to comply with court etiquette, and engage in serious breaches of court etiquette, such as swearing in court or deliberately disobeying an instruction from the judge or magistrate, you may receive  a warning or reprimand, or a criminal charge such as contempt of court which is an offence that carries a term of imprisonment of up to 28 days.

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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