How to prepare for court and courtroom etiquette

Attending court, whether for the first time or otherwise, is always daunting. Understanding courtroom etiquette and ensuring you follow formalities is essential to a good first impression. We have consulted with our solicitors to create this guide to courtroom etiquette to help make your day in court as smooth as possible.

Preparing for court

  • James Yates, Solicitor Advocate at Martin Cray says: “The best preparation for court is to be proactive about getting advice early so that your representative can actually have something in place by the time of the first appearance.”
  • “For example, if a guilty plea is indicated and the offence was influenced by alcohol then we can have an expert dealing with alcohol dependency and judgement making in place by the first hearing.”
  • “If a not guilty plea is entered then we can already have taken key witness statements which allow us to present a strong base at the first appearance.”

Courtroom etiquette

  • When it comes to the courtroom, always look and act your best. You want the judge to look on your favourably, so dress appropriately and be polite; first impressions are everything.
  • Dress professionally; shirt, smart jacket, trousers or knee-length skirt, fitted dress
  • Avoid wearing trainers, sportswear, shorts, short skirts, crop tops
  • Always address the judge as ‘your honour’ (in the high courts, you may use My Lord/ Lady)
  • If it is a bench of magistrates then you should refer to the bench as ‘your worships’ or ‘sir/madam’
  • Never talk over the judge
  • Answer the questions you are asked (you may confer with your solicitor before answering them)
  • Never raise your voice, even if you are displeased with the line of questioning or outcome (as this could lead to repercussions)
  • Do not use foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain
  • Bring a bottle of water, or a flask or cup with a lid if you decide to bring a hot drink
  • Do not bring any glass
  • Please make sure that your phone is switched off or on silent and ensure that anyone with you in the public gallery also has their phones turned off or on silent.

Arriving at court

  • If you have to be in court, arrive at least 30 minutes early as you will need time to go through security and find the room where your case is being heard. Security will often check through your bags and ask you to empty your pockets. Do not bring any sharp objects, glass, tools, crash helmets or full-length umbrellas with you into the courthouse.
  • If you bring a drink to Court then you will be required to take a sip of the drink in front of the security staff.
  • Ensure you speak to the staff on the front desk to let them know you have arrived. If you do not do this, no one will know to look for you when your session starts.

Finding your room

  • There will likely be many cases taking place on the day you arrive at court, so take the time to find the room where your case is being heard. Often there will be a list displayed on paper or electronically. If you cannot find this, speak to a member of staff or security.
  • Once you have located which Court you are in, it is important that you locate the Court usher (who will usually be wearing a black gown over their normal clothes) and give your name. They will then sign you in as there and take a note of when you arrived.
  • Many cases are listed for the same time so the Court will normally deal with cases in the order they are arrived, or depending on who is ready. Signing in and being ready to go will often reduce the amount of time you are waiting at Court for your case to be called.

Entering the room

  • When you enter a courtroom you should make a small bow towards the judge or the magistrates as a sign of respect to the Court process. It gives a good first impression.
  • Enter the room quietly as there may be a case in session. Find a seat and wait until the session is finished and follow the directions of the usher
  • When you leave Court, it is custom that you again bow to the judge or magistrates as you leave the Court.

Need help preparing for court?

Our solicitors are on hand 24/7 to provide you with support and representation when you need it most. Although we are unable to offer legal aid, we are able to offer advice and are proud to be recognised for our superior expertise and professionalism, standing out as one of the best solicitors in Brighton.

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