Dont be Fazed by Court Appearances
Court houses are buildings of great importance, and can be extremely intimidating to the un-initiated. Obviously most people do not look forward to attending any court, whether that be local court, district court, family court or higher levels.
So how do you approach a court date?
First understand the court is merely a building. Behind the doors is the judicial system functioning to make our lives and society more efficient. Courts don’t exist to scare or intimidate the general public.
Go to court with purpose: know why you are there, what you aim to achieve and, most importantly, prepare well. If you have been charged with an offence, do some elementary research, see what you have been charged with, know why you have been charged and make sure you understand the fact sheet (and be prepared to pencil out errors).
If you are the victim of a crime, your reason for being at court is a quite different. Understand what will happen and what will be expected of you if you are there to give evidence, or to watch and evaluate proceedings. Speaking to the officer in charge or the prosecutor in your matter will help put you on the right track.
If you are a witness, the reason for being present at court is somewhat narrowed to giving evidence about a particular aspect of a case or the people involved. A good start is to keep in touch with the officer in charge to see where you stand and what is required of you.
Court etiquette is important. Always remember to bow slightly to the magistrate or judge when you enter the court. This is a mark of respect for not only the court, but our judicial system in general.
Be quiet in the court room, and be sure to turn off all electronic devices, especially mobile phones. You don't need the magistrate's attention on you for the wrong reasons.
Act with dignity and conduct yourself professionally. This will go a long way to ensuring that you are understood and taken seriously in court.
In summary, the key points to consider before any court appearance are to understand the purpose of your visit; be prepared; don’t let the atmosphere overwhelm you; and, if required, seek legal advice well in advance of your court appearance.