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Court Etiquette (WA)

When attending court in Western Australia, it is important to be aware of court etiquette. This means behaving appropriately while in court to show respect for the legal system and to show that you are taking the matter seriously. If a person disregards court etiquette they may be asked to leave the court or even be charged with contempt of court. This applies whether the matter is a civil matter or a criminal matter.

Court etiquette and open court

Most court matters in Western Australia are dealt with in ‘open court’. This means that the court is open to the public and to the media. If you want to familiarise yourself with the court process prior to your court matter, you can attend court to watch some other matters prior to your own matter.

If you attend court for a matter you are not involved in, sit quietly at the back of the court in the public gallery to observe. You can find listings of the court proceedings on the Western Australia Courts website or on the screens in the court foyer. Alternatively, you can ask the staff at the registry which court you can enter to watch some matters.

Court etiquette and punctuality

You should ensure you arrive for court on time. It is recommended to arrive earlier than the time your matter is listed to find the courtroom and to in case there are any changes.

If you are attending the Magistrates Court, it is important to be aware that your matter will not necessarily be dealt with at the time it is listed. Court matters are generally placed in a list, which starts being heard at a designated time, for example, 10 am. If your matter is listed for 10 am this means it may be called on at any time after 10 am. However, if there is a busy court list, your matter may not be called on until later in the day. It is always a good idea to go to court prepared to be there all day as court etiquette requires you to be available at whatever time the court is ready to deal with your matter. 

Dress code

In Western Australia, court etiquette requires you to wear clothing that is tidy and conservative. The following is generally accepted as proper court attire:

  • Subtle coloured clothing such as dark colours and white;
  • A suit (though this is not essential);
  • Collared button-up shirts;
  • Pants or a skirt at or longer than knee level; and
  • Clean closed shoes.

The following are examples of what would not be acceptable in court:

  • Sleeveless tops;
  • Pants or skirts that are shorter than knee level;
  • Thongs or sandals;

Entering and leaving the courtroom

When you enter or leave the courtroom, it is customary to bow at the Coat of Arms behind the bench as a sign of respect. Court etiquette also requires that you turn off your phone before entering the court and remove any hat or sunglasses.

Standard of behaviour in the courtroom

Court etiquette in WA also requires a certain standard of behaviour to be observed. The following are examples of court etiquette expected in the courtroom:

  • Sitting silently unless called upon by the magistrate or judge;
  • Following the judicial officer’s instructions;
  • Addressing the judicial officer as ‘Your Honour’;
  • Turning off all audio and/or mobile devices;
  • Refraining from eating or drinking;
  • Refraining from recording or publishing any part of the proceeding.

For further assistance

If you are a victim or witness in a court matter, you may want to seek further assistance from support services such as Victim Support Service.

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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