What do I need to do if I am going to court?
Arrival at court
Your solicitor or the court will give you the time, date and location of the court hearing. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with where the court is so that you can get there in plenty of time. It will not help your stress levels if you arrive late.
Sometimes your lawyer may suggest meeting at court some time before the hearing to discuss it, but even if they don’t, it is a good idea to arrive at least half an hour before the court hearing time.
How long will it take?
Courts are like doctors’ surgeries and often run behind time because they have urgent matters to fit in. This means that you may not get on to your hearing at exactly the appointment time so be prepared for a wait. Make sure you are well in time just in case the court list is running on time.
This also means that the hearing may not finish on time, so make sure that you are not under pressure to leave at a particular time on your hearing day. If you have driven, make sure that you can park for quite a few hours wherever you leave your car.
Most of the modern courts in the larger cities have a cafeteria so you may be able to get refreshments in the building.
Preparing for court
It is likely that your lawyer will have sent you your witness statement or other evidence. Re-read it to refresh your memory, as you may be asked about it. Your lawyer will often suggest meeting before the hearing to discuss the evidence and case.
What do I need to wear?
It is not compulsory to wear a suit, however, courts are a formal environment where people tend to dress conservatively. You may feel more comfortable and that you are making a better impression if you dress smartly.
What will the Judge be wearing?
In many civil court hearings, the Judge and barristers will not be wearing wigs and gowns and will just be in business attire. However, in some civil hearings and most criminal court cases you will see the Judge and barristers wearing wigs and gowns.
What do I call the Judge?
This depends on which court you are in.
Most hearings take place in the magistrates’ court or county court.
In the magistrates’ court there will be up to three magistrates, who are also called Justices of the Peace. They are addressed as “Your Worship”.
In the county court it will probably be a District Judge who is addressed “Sir” or “Madam”.
In the crown or some county courts, it may be a Circuit Judge who is addressed “Your Honour”.
Your lawyer will be able to tell you more about this when you arrive.
What actually happens when I am there?
When the Judge walks in everyone stands and stands again when the Judge leaves.
The barristers or solicitor advocates introduce the case and then sometimes witnesses will be called to give evidence. If you are called to give evidence, you will have to swear an oath to tell the truth and then the advocates for both sides can ask you questions. The Judge can also ask questions.
At the end of the hearing, in a civil case, the Judge will give a judgement setting out their findings and stating who has won. In serious criminal cases, a jury would give a verdict. It is very rare to have a jury involved in a civil case.
Sometimes the Judge in a civil case may not give their judgement for several days or even weeks after the hearing. In simple cases, they may give a judgement straight away.