Courtroom etiquette

Courts are very formal places and there is an expectation that you will behave in a respectful way and follow the rules and procedures.  Everyone in court, including witnesses, defendants and the public, must conduct themselves according to the court’s rules.

If you don’t comply with the rules, you can be found in ‘contempt of court’. You may be told to leave the court and in extreme cases, such as if you disrupt the trial, the judge could fine you or send you to jail.

Court rules for everyone

When you go to court, you should show respect for the court by dressing neatly (though you don’t have to wear a suit), particularly if you’re appearing as a witness or defendant.

When you’re in court:

  • turn off your mobile phone
  • sit quietly—don’t talk, comment or make noise if you are watching from the public gallery
  • don’t eat, drink or chew gum—courthouses have an area outside the courtroom where you can eat
  • don’t smoke in the courthouse
  • don’t make an audio or visual recording of proceedings
  • don’t broadcast the trial in any way
  • don’t speak to jurors if it is a jury trial.

Respecting the judge or magistrate

The judge or magistrate is in charge of the court and everyone in the courtroom should show them respect.

This includes:

  • standing whenever the magistrate or judge enters or leaves the courtroom—the depositions clerk or bailiff will call ‘all rise’
  • bowing your head to acknowledge the magistrate or judge every time they enter or leave the courtroom
  • calling the magistrate or judge ‘Your Honour’.

Defendants

As a defendant it is very important that you show respect for the court and the judge. In the courtroom, you should stand whenever the judge or magistrate speaks to you.

Read more about going to court as a defendant.

Witnesses

You should wait outside the courtroom until you are called to give evidence. You shouldn’t talk to other witnesses about the case before you and they have given evidence.

Read more about going to court as a witness.

Jurors

As a juror, you can’t have a mobile phone or other tablet device in the court room, even if it’s turned off. There will also be times when you will not be able to retain your mobile devices, even in the jury room.  The bailiff will be the person who will inform you of these times.

Read more about going to court as a juror.

Watching from the public gallery

Queensland has an open judicial system. As a member of the Queensland public, you’re encouraged to see how it works. The public, media and family members of anyone involved in the case can usually watch a trial from the public gallery at the back of the courtroom.

Witnesses can watch the trial only once they’ve given their evidence.

If you want to watch a trial, check your local court opening times. Check the daily law list to find out what cases are taking place and then go to the courtroom you wish to attend.

In special cases the judge may order the court room to be closed, such as to protect a vulnerable witness, in which case you won’t be allowed in.

Cases in the Childrens Court (Magistrates Court) are always held in a closed courtroom to protect the accused child’s identity, though the child’s immediate family are allowed in court to support them.

When you watch from the public gallery, you’re there as an observer. Therefore, you should be quiet, watch and listen.

You can’t take photos, record or transmit a trial in any way. You should also follow the formal courtroom rules, such as standing when the magistrate or judge enters the room.