The thought of going to court and giving evidence can make some people feel quite nervous or anxious. If you find yourself in a situation where you are required to attend court, it is recommended that you prepare by speaking with someone to get support, and seek information about the court system and the court process. Since the court is a formal environment, you should talk to a person experienced in court matters, such as your lawyer, counsellor or a police officer, if you are unsure about anything, such as ways to behave and the types of things to say or not to say. There are some basic court rules which you must adhere to;

•   Switch off mobile phones before entering the courtroom
•   Be polite
•   Maintain a quiet and respectful manner in court
•   Sit quietly in the courtroom
•   Dress appropriately, this means smart casual
•   Take off your hat, cap or sunglasses
•   Do not eat, drink, chew gum or smoke inside the courtroom
•   Remember to bow when you go in or leave the court
•   Remember the Magistrate or Judge is the person in charge in the court

Before you go to court, it is helpful to read your statement again and be familiar with it. Think about the events and try to remember details such as dates, times, descriptions, actions and exact words used. Normally you won’t be able to read from your written statement when giving evidence although you may be asked to refer to it in some circumstances. If you don’t have a copy of your statement, ask the police or the solicitor from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) to give you a copy well before you go to court.

You are not allowed to see statements made by other witnesses or to enter court while their evidence is being given until after you have given your evidence (make sure you do not discuss your evidence with anyone else.) Be prepared to speak loudly and clearly. Your role is to tell the truth as best as you can while you’re in court, and as such you cannot be advised as to what to say.

There are many different courts that you may be required to attend for a variety of different reasons. Regardless of which court you are in, or the reason that you are attending, the protocol and expected decorum remain the same. You may be attending as a defendant, witness or even an observer and the type of matter can range from criminal to commercial or even an individual case against the ATO or another organisation.

Court can start at different times so it is best to check what time you will need to be there before the hearing date. Also be sure to allow time for transport. Since you may have a long wait, consider packing some food and drink or a book to give you something to do. It is also helpful to have a support person, such as a friend or family member attend with you, this will hopefully reduce the stress of sitting and waiting for your turn. Another way to reduce this stress is to visit a courthouse before the case to see what it looks like, or see other cases that are open to the public and how witnesses give evidence; this will give you an idea of what to expect.

Things to remember when due to attend court:

•   You have the right to be kept informed about the progress of your case. You or your support person can discuss contact arrangements with the police officer or the prosecutor responsible for your case.
•   You can discuss any concerns or questions you have about the case with the police or the prosecutor.
•   Don’t forget to tell the police, the police prosecutor, or the ODPP if you change your address or telephone number or if you are going away for more than a few days.
•   If you are a witness, it is important for you to meet the lawyer prosecuting the case, preferably before the day at court. The prosecutor will probably want to talk to you about your statement beforehand.

If you are due to appear in court for any reason you should seek the advice of a lawyer. Not only can a lawyer provide you with experienced advice and assist you throughout the entire legal process, but a lawyer can help to ease any nerves and explain things more simply to you. Here at The Quinn Group our experienced team of lawyers can provide you with more information on any legal proceedings, submit an online enquiry to find out more or call us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment. Alternatively, you can visit our designated website for more in depth information.