Court Etiquette

Whenever a person is attending any court in Australia, they must be mindful of the rules of court etiquette. This is the case regardless of whether they are attending court as an accused person, as a witness or only as an observer. If a person does not show an adequate level of respect while in court, the judicial officers may ask them to leave. In extreme cases, they may be charged with contempt of the court.


It is very important to be on time when you attend court.

In the Magistrates Court, criminal matters are generally heard as part of a large criminal list. This means that the time you are told to attend court may not be the time that your matter is actually heard. Rather, it is likely to be the time that the criminal list begins to be heard.

Criminal matters in the Magistrates Court can take a long time to be dealt with. It is always a good idea to keep the entire day free. Ensure your car is parked somewhere without a time limit and if you have children, arrange for them to be looked after elsewhere.

In the higher courts, matters are much more likely to be heard promptly at the time they are listed. However, proceedings may still be time-consuming and it is wise to come prepared to be at court for most of the day.

Dress code

When attending court, you should dress in a tidy and conservative style. This shows respect for the court system and demonstrates that you are taking the matter seriously. If you are dressed inappropriately, the judicial officer may ask you to leave.

Examples of appropriate clothing for court are:

  • Subdued colours such as white and black;
  • Collared button-up shirt, buttoned to an appropriate point;
  • A suit;
  • Pants, skirt or dress that sit at or below knee level; and
  • Closed shoes.

Clothing that is inappropriate include:

  • Sleeveless and see-through tops;
  • Clothing with offensive slogans or graphics;
  • Denim;
  • Pants or skirts that sit above knee level;
  • Thongs;
  • Sunglasses.

Court etiquette when entering court

When you enter court, make sure your phone is switched off or on silent. Remove any hats and sunglasses and do not take food or drink into the court.

Prior to entering a courtroom, you should stop at the doorway and bow or nod your head to the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officer.

You should sit in the gallery until the matter is called on. If you are representing yourself, you will be asked to come to the bar table when your matter is called on. If you have a lawyer, you will remain seated in the gallery, but will be asked to stand when the magistrate addresses you directly.

Do not use phones or other mobile devices in court. Do not take photos, smoke or chew gum. Do not speak unless you are called up to do so by the judicial officer. If you address the judge or magistrate directly, address them as ‘Your Honour’.

Court etiquette when leaving court

Just as you did when entering, you should bow your head at the Coat of Arms behind the judicial officers when leaving the court.

Driving matters

If you are attending court for a driving matter where you may have your licence suspended, do not drive to court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Taylor Rose.

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, and 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.