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Court Etiquette (Qld)

When you go to court, it is important to show your respect to the court by abiding by the rules of court etiquette. You can familiarise yourself with court etiquette by attending court and observing how people behave and the procedures that are followed. You can also find information about how to behave at court on the Queensland courts website.

Court is generally open, meaning that members of the public can come in and watch the proceedings. In some matters, a decision may be made to close the court. This means that persons who are not involved are not allowed to enter.

Preparing for court

When going to court in a criminal matter where you are the defendant, make sure you are punctual and arrive before the scheduled time. You should come prepared to be at court all day as matters are often not heard at the time that they are scheduled for.

It is important to remember that if your summons says you have to be at court at 10am, this does not mean that your matter will actually be heard at 10am. Rather, it means that your matter is in the 10am list. How long it takes to reach your matter can vary depending on how busy the list is. Your matter may not be heard until the afternoon.

Make sure you take a book or something else to do while you are waiting. If you have children, make arrangements for them so they do not have to wait around at court with you.

It is a good idea to take a pen and paper with you to court, in case you are required to write down an adjournment date or other information.

Finding the courtroom

You can find the correct courtroom by looking at the notice boards and television screens at the courthouse or by asking a staff member at the registry counter. These are usually located in the court’s foyer. Criminal matters are listed by the name of the defendant.

If your matter is being heard in a Magistrates Court, wait outside the court until your name is called. If your matter is in the District Court, the bailiff will be able to tell you when it will be heard. If your matter is in the Supreme Court, you should wait inside the courtroom. Ask the bailiff when your matter is due to start.

If you are in custody, corrections officers or police will make sure you are brought to the correct courtroom at the appropriate time. As you enter the courtroom, bow your head to the Coat of Arms behind the judge or magistrate as a sign of respect to the court before sitting down.

Court etiquette in the courtroom

Some days in court are very busy. If your matter has not yet been called, you should wait in the public seating area until the court is ready to hear your case.

If you are the defendant in a criminal matter and you are representing yourself, you should sit at the left side of the bar table. If you have a lawyer, you should sit in the seating in the main part of the courtroom.

General rules of court etiquette

While in any court is Queensland make sure that you:

  • turn off your mobile phone;
  • turn off any alarms on your watch, phone, tablet or any pager;
  • do not talk unless called upon by the judge or magistrate;
  • do not eat, drink or chew gum;
  • do not smoke;
  • take your sunglasses or hat off before entering the courtroom;
  • do not record or publish any of the proceeding.

Court etiquette towards the magistrate or judge

The magistrate or judge sits at the front of the court facing everyone else. Everyone in the court must behave respectfully towards the magistrate or judge by:

  • calling them “Your Honour”;
  • bowing their head when entering or exiting the courtroom;
  • standing and keeping quiet when the magistrate or judge enters or exits the courtroom;
  • standing whenever the magistrate or judge addresses them;
  • listening to and following any instructions from the judge or magistrate.

Dress etiquette

To show your respect for the court, you will need to dress tidily and conservatively. Suitable attire includes:

  • a suit;
  • collared button-up shirt;
  • pants or a skirt at or below knee level;
  • clean closed shoes;
  • if you are representing yourself, it is recommended that you wear a jacket.

It is sometimes said that when dressing for court, you should dress as if you’re going to church.

Dress attire that is not suitable includes:

  • singlets
  • strapless or see-through tops
  • clothing with offensive or disrespectful words or graphics
  • jeans
  • thongs
  • short shorts
  • mini skirts
  • sunglasses
  • hats.

Leaving the court

Court etiquette in Queensland requires that, when leaving the courtroom, a person bows again as a sign of respect.

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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