You should try to get to court an hour before your case starts. When you arrive, try to make contact with the investigator or prosecutor to let them know you are there. If you have a WAS officer supporting you, make arrangements to meet them nearby before the hearing starts so you can go into the courtroom with them.
- If you get lost or can’t find the courtroom, speak to the court security or registry staff and they will help you to find the right place. You can always call the CDPP and someone will help you.
If the case is in the Supreme, County or District Court, there will generally be a jury to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. The jury is normally selected and sworn in on the first day of the case.
In the Magistrates’ or Local court, there is no jury and the magistrate will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
You’re not allowed to talk to the prosecutor while the court is sitting. However, you may be able to speak to them during court breaks. If you are being questioned in court by the defence lawyer, you won’t be able to speak to the prosecutor during this period.
If you are giving evidence as a witness in a trial, you won’t be able to sit in the court before you appear. This helps to ensure your evidence isn’t influenced by what other people have said.
You’re not allowed to talk to the defendant or their lawyer in the courtroom.
Cases are usually heard in an open court. Only judges or magistrates have the authority to close the court or to make orders to stop information about the case being made public.
- An open court means that anyone is able to come into the courtroom to watch the case from the public sitting area. This is usually at the back of the courtroom.
Sometimes the judge or magistrate may order a closed court.
- In a closed court, only certain people are allowed to come into the courtroom to watch or take part in a case. There may also be restrictions on what the prosecutor is able to tell you about what happened in court on that day.
- Courts may be closed by the magistrate or judge when a vulnerable witness, such as a child, is giving evidence.
Even when a case or some parts of it are held in a closed court we will always tell you:
- where you need to give your evidence
- how that process works
- whether the defendant was found guilty or not.
Court is a serious and formal place, so while there are no hard and fast rules, you are expected to dress appropriately.
A good rule of thumb is to be neat and tidy, and as you may be at court for several hours, wear clothes that are comfortable.
- There is no requirement to wear a suit, so if you don’t have one don’t go and buy one.
- Children should wear good casual clothes and look neat and tidy.
- Don’t feel you need to buy any new clothes to go to court.
If you wear religious dress that covers your face, please talk to your CDPP prosecutor before your court appearance to see whether there are any special requirements. As courts often need to check a person’s identity, the CDPP can help to ensure security processes are dealt with as quickly and respectfully as possible.
- Some courts may ask for your face to be visible for security reasons, or while you are giving evidence. If this is the case, a headscarf would be fine, but special arrangements may need to be made for anyone whose religious belief prevents them from showing their face in public.
If you arrive before the judge or magistrate, you can go into the courtroom and sit in the public area at the back. Lawyers and court staff may already be in the courtroom setting up for the case.
When the judge or magistrate is about to enter, you will hear someone say ‘all rise’. This means you need to stand up and wait until the judge or magistrate has taken their seat, and told everyone else in the courtroom to sit back down.
If you enter the court after the judge or magistrate, you will need to pause as you go into the courtroom and bow (nod your head respectfully), before moving to your seat.
You don’t have to stay in court for the whole time the judge or magistrate is sitting at the bench. If you need to leave, you may go quietly at any time. However, you will need to pause before leaving the courtroom to bow (nod your head respectfully) to the judge or magistrate before turning to go through the courtroom door.
- Bowing is a sign of respect, not to the individual judge or magistrate, but to the office they hold. If you don’t do it, you may be reprimanded by the court.
There are strict rules around using mobile phones in court, but they vary between different states and types of court. The best idea is to talk to your prosecutor about when and how you can use your mobile phone in court.
- Generally you can use it on silent mode before a case starts. Some courts allow you to keep it on silent mode once the case has started, but not all. Make sure you check the rules with your prosecutor or WAS officer.
- Even when you’re allowed to use your mobile phone you must not talk into it, take photos or record videos, or make any noise with it while the judge or magistrate is in the courtroom.