Advice To Self-Represented Parties
This is information on how to represent yourself in Court. To enable the court's work to proceed in an effective and efficient way, it is essential that everyone who has business to conduct in court should behave in a courteous and orderly way.
Accordingly, rules ('court etiquette') have been developed over many years as to appropriate behaviour in court.
Everyone attending court (that is, lawyers, defendants, witnesses, police officers, members of the public and others) are expected to comply with these rules Knowledge of and compliance with those rules will assist the smooth running of your case.
Here are some of the rules.
Rules, Procedures, and Etiquette
- Be punctual if you are a party or witness. The Court has a very busy schedule, so you must be on time for your case. If you are late, your case might be heard in your absence or a warrant might issue for your arrest. Make sure you bring all documents that you might need for your case.
- The Magistrate cannot speak to you about your case except when your case is being heard in court and when the other party is there. The Court staff will help you in any way they can, but staff cannot give you legal advice or recommendations on what you should do. Please assist court staff by providing any information that they request as that will assist the Court to run effectively and efficiently.
- Dress with dignity. The court does not require any particular style or standard of dress but it does expect that you dress in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.
- Address other people in court only by their titles and surnames, including lawyers, witnesses, and court staff.
- Stand when the Magistrate enters or leaves the courtroom. You will notice that immediately before the Magistrate takes his seat on the Bench and just before leaving the Bench he or she will bow to counsel who bow in return. This is a traditional way of indicating mutual respect. Similarly, everyone who enters or leaves the Court-room while the Court is in session is expected to bow to the Court. As this expression of courtesy is expected and usual, it can be done without feeling self-conscious.
- Stand when the Magistrate speaks to you, and when you speak to the Magistrate. When the court is in session, speak only to the Magistrate except when questioning witnesses.
- Address the Magistrate as 'Your Honour', ‘Sir’, or ‘Madam’.
- Hand to the Court Clerk all documents or things for examination by the Magistrate.
- The Magistrate cannot advise you how to conduct your case as the Magistrate must remain impartial. However, if you are in doubt as to the correct procedure, you may seek the Magistrate's directions.
- Assist the summoning of witnesses from outside the courtroom by providing the Court Clerk and security guard with a list of witnesses showing the order in which they are likely to be called.
- Question witnesses while standing in your place. You must ask permission to approach a witness who is giving evidence in the witness box.
- You are not permitted to bring any firearm, knife or offensive weapon into a Court building without permission.
- Avoid making any disparaging or offensive remarks towards Counsel and others.
- You must wait either in the Court room or in the waiting area immediately outside for your case to be reached. If for good reason you have to leave the immediate area of the Court before your case is reached, make sure you tell a member of the Court staff. Usually witnesses must wait outside the Court room while the evidence of other witnesses in their case is being heard.
- The Court makes every reasonable attempt to reduce inconvenience to parties and witnesses. However, some delays are unavoidable. If for good reason you need to have your case dealt with early (for example, if you have a medical appointment), let a member of the court staff know and every effort will be made to assist you.
- If you need special equipment for your case, for example, a TV monitor and video/DVD player, advise the court well staff in advance.
- Smoking, eating and drinking are not permitted in Court rooms. Smoking is not permitted in Court buildings.
- Photography, video and sound recording are not allowed in Court buildings except with permission. Cameras may not be brought into Court buildings without approval.
- The Court's permission is required for the televising or broadcasting of proceedings.
- There is no policy that prevents the use of lap top computers in court rooms. However, the presiding Magistrate's permission should be obtained before such equipment is used.
- The Court's security guards are available to answer your questions and to provide reasonable assistance. The security guards are appointed by the Magistrates Court. In addition, they have the same powers and authorities as police officers in respect of the Court buildings and proceedings.