Being in a courtroom isn’t a pleasant for anyone, regardless of whether you’re a witness, defendant, member of the jury or the claimant – although, obviously it’s more unpleasant for the defendant. However, regardless of your position in the courtroom there are certain rules, with regards to attire, punctuality and courtesy, which everyone must abide by in order to ensure a trial goes smoothly. Your solicitor will generally go through everything with you beforehand, should your case progress to court.
The way that a court is conducted depends entirely on the type of court that you are in, although many of the general rules remain the same.
There aren’t many people who have an in depth knowledge of the court system and the majority of people will never need to know. However, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself having to attend court, for whatever reason, it’s beneficial to know what to expect.
The types of offences that are seen in these courts are generally dealt with in a day. The case could be seen by up to three judges. There will also be magistrates and court clerks in attendance – the clerks provide the magistrates with legal advice as, a lot of the time, they are not trained lawyers. These types of courts are also open for the public to sit in and watch. However, there is no jury.
These cases are also usually dealt with within a day and involve young people between the ages of 10 and 17. The layout of a youth court is almost identical to a magistrates’ court and, just as in a magistrates’ court, there is no jury. The judges that head these courts are specially trained to work with young people.
The layout of a crown court is instantly recognisable as it is the kind of courtroom that is often used on the TV. This is where more serious crimes are heard in front of a jury. In the crown court there will be one judge – addressed as ‘your honour’ – court clerks, barristers, court ushers, the defendant and the jury. There will also be someone to record the entire trial – just in case the result is appealed – as well as an area where the public and journalists are able to sit in on the case.
There is no usual time limit for these cases, they can take anything from a few days to weeks to months to be concluded.
Rules of the Court
Although there is nothing to say that you must wear a suit in a courtroom, generally you’ll be told to wear ‘suitable attire’. Usually any court attendees will not be allowed to wear shorts, jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, trainers, soiled clothes or poorly fitting clothes. You will also be asked to remove any hats as you enter the courtroom.
Most courtrooms generally run from 10.30am to 4.30pm but you’ll be expected to arrive before your scheduled time. Usually you’ll be told what time proceedings will commence and you’ll be asked to arrive 15-20 minutes before that scheduled time – this can vary from case to case.
In order for the trial to progress as it should it’s important for all court attendees to employ quiet, modest behaviour throughout. This is not limited to personal conduct and also includes turning off electrical devices which are not permitted in a courtroom, for example, mobile phones.
All court attendees must act courteously towards the judge at all times. Whenever the judge enters the court everyone in attendance must stand and they will usually be addressed only as ‘your honour’. Good manners must also be shown to all other court personnel and officials outside of the courtroom.