Going to court

To ensure the smooth operation of a court, it is important everyone visiting or attending the court behaves appropriately and in keeping with court processes.

Due to Covid-19 Western Australian Courts and Tribunals are putting in place measures to mitigate the risks to the judiciary, our employees and all Court users. Court and Tribunal listing practices will change during Covid-19. Restrictions on public gallery capacities are now in place to uphold social distancing regulations. Population limits have been placed on courtrooms, hearings, conferences, and mediation with only essential parties required in the rooms permitted.

If you need to contact a court or tribunal, or deal with a court or tribunal matter, please refer to the relevant court or tribunal website for information including registry opening hours.

You may be visiting a court for a variety of reasons, whether it be because you have a case to be heard at court, you are a party to court proceedings, you are a juror, a witness, a victim or an interested member of the community.

Getting ready to go to court

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  • Remember to take any relevant documents about the case with you to court.
  • Arrive on time. If you are late or do not attend, your case may be heard in your absence or a warrant might be issued for your arrest.  
  • Dress appropriately in neat, clean and smart clothing.
  • Arrange for an interpreter if required. Contact the court where your case will be and tell them that you need an interpreter. You should do this as early as possible before your court date.
  • You can access free childcare services if you are required to attend court. Contact the court you will be attending at least two days beforehand to arrange childcare services at approved local childcare centres.
  • Consult a lawyer or Legal Aid if you need legal advice.

Court times

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Most courts sit from 10.00 am each day. They often break for lunch between 1.00 pm and 2:15 pm and then close at approximately 4.00 pm. You can check specific court listing times by visiting the eCourts Portal and looking up the matter.

What to wear to court

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When you come to Court you should make sure you are dressed conservatively and respectfully. Neat, clean and smart clothing is the most appropriate to wear. No revealing or see-through clothing should be worn.

Sunglasses and hats must be removed before entering a courtroom. You may be asked to leave a courtroom if you refuse to remove these items.

What you can wear to court. A group of people wearing appropriate and unacceptable clothes.

Persons wearing clothing that displays offensive slogans or images will not be permitted entry into the courthouse.  No gang colours/patches/symbols/jackets or other insignia can be worn and you may be refused entry to the courthouse if you wear these items.

Footwear must be worn at all times.

Behaviour in court

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  • You should always behave politely and respectfully when in a courthouse.
  • Turn off your mobile phone before entering a courtroom.
  • When you enter or leave a courtroom, bow to the judge or magistrate. Stand up when they enter or leave the courtroom. 
  • Address the judge or magistrate as 'Your Honour'. If the judge or magistrate is speaking to you or you want to speak to them, you should stand up (unless you are in a witness box). A judge or magistrate can only speak to you about your case when it is being heard and when the other party is present.
  • Do not smoke, eat or chew gum in court.
  • Cameras, recording devices, or other electronic equipment are not permitted in the courtroom without the consent of the judicial officer.
  • The Judicial Officer is in charge of the courtroom and may order the removal of anybody who misbehaves or does not follow the directions given. Security officers may also do this and they have delegated powers under the Court Security and Custodial Services Act 1999 (WA).
  • Court staff will help you in any way the can, but staff cannot give you legal advice.
  • Court hearings are generally unsuitable environments for young children.

Going to court as a witness

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Witnesses play a critical role in the Western Australian justice system.

In criminal trials, the evidence of witnesses is essential in helping to determine whether a person charged with an offence is guilty or not guilty. In civil trials involving disputes between individuals or corporations, the evidence of witnesses is important in establishing the facts of the matter.

Criminal trials of people charged with the more serious offences are heard in the Supreme or District courts before a judge and jury. An accused, however, may elect to have their trial before a judge alone without a jury. The trials of people charged with lesser offences are heard before a magistrate sitting alone in the Magistrates Court.

If the accused person is under the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged offence, the matter will be heard in the Children's Court.

Civil matters, depending on the nature of the dispute or amount of money involved, are heard and determined before a judge in the Supreme and District courts or a magistrate in the civil jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court. A party is only entitled to have their matter heard before a jury in a limited number of circumstances.

Preparing for court

Remember to take any relevant documents about the case with you to court. If you think you will need an interpreter, please contact the court well before the day of the proceedings.

As you may have to wait a long time before you give your evidence, you may like to take something to read and something to eat or drink. You may ask a friend to come to court with you.

If you need legal advice you should consult a solicitor or Legal Aid as court staff are unable to provide legal advice.

If you are a victim of crime, you can contact the Victim Support Service for advice.

Arrive on time and make your arrival known to a court officer.

At court

You may be allowed to sit in the public gallery of the court and listen to other cases while you are waiting. However, you will probably be asked to leave the court when the case in which you are involved is called.

Witness in court

When you enter or leave the court, you should bow towards the judge or magistrate.

When called to give your evidence, the orderly will guide you to the witness box. Remain standing until you take the oath or affirmation (this is a promise to tell the truth). You can then sit down and the prosecution and defence lawyers will ask you questions.

When all the questioning has been completed, the judge or magistrate will ask you to stand down from the witness box and you can leave the court. You may like to sit in the public gallery at the back of the court and listen to the rest of the case.

Sensitive or vulnerable witnesses

Witnesses who may be frightened to face the accused in the court may give their evidence from behind a screen in the courtroom.

In some courts, closed-circuit television systems allow such witnesses to give their evidence from a separate room.

If you do not want to face the accused in court, contact the office listed on your witness summons.

When giving evidence remember to:

  • stay relaxed and calm
  • advise the judge or magistrate if you need a break
  • listen carefully
  • if you don't understand or can't hear something, ask for it to be repeated or explained
  • speak clearly and slowly
  • be careful not to leave anything out when giving your answers and
  • if you need advice, ask the judge or magistrate.

Expenses

If you are called as a witness in a criminal trial, you may be able to claim expenses associated with your attendance in court. Please contact the court office counter for information.

Child witnesses

Children can be involved in criminal court cases as victims or witnesses.

For further information on giving evidence as a child witness, refer to the below: 

Any children under 18 years old who may be required to give evidence at court can be referred to the Child Witness Service. For further information about the Child Witness Service, refer to the Support for Victims of Crime Services page.

Further assistance

For further assistance and information about court procedures, contact your nearest court. Please note court staff are unable to provide legal advice.

Court procedures

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When a criminal offence occurs, or a civil dispute arises, these are the procedures that lead to a court case.

Criminal matters

An accused is arrested and taken to a police station where the charge is explained and a formal written charge is made. Alternatively, the accused can be summoned by police to attend court to answer the charge(s). For less serious offences, police can start the action by prosecution notice with a court hearing notice or summons rather than arresting the accused. The accused can be released on bail, which is a promise to attend court on a certain day at a particular time. However, the accused may be kept in custody for more serious offences or if a court decides to not grant bail. The accused will receive a document requiring attendance at court which will also include information about the charge(s). A date will be set for the court case and the accused person will be asked to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. The court case may be adjourned to a later date if the accused needs to get legal advice before pleading. If the accused pleads guilty, the judge or magistrate will deal with the case. If the accused pleads not guilty, a trial date is set and the case proceeds to a trial.

Civil matters

A person may get advice from a lawyer about a legal problem or complaint. The lawyer may send a letter on behalf of the complainant to a third party, demanding that certain actions be taken. If this does not produce a satisfactory response, the complainant or their lawyer will send an official notice, which is commonly known as a writ of summon in the Supreme and District Courts and a claim in the Magistrate Court, to the third party which requires them to answer the claims made against them. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the court will make a decision.

Administrative matters

A person, called the applicant, can start an administrative case by completing and submitting an application form at the relevant tribunal.

Review of court or tribunal decision or sentence

A person who disagrees with a court or tribunal decision or sentence may have a right of appeal or be able to apply for a re-hearing or review of the decision or sentence. Contact a lawyer to find out more about how to seek a review of a decision or sentence.

Further information

Information on court processes is available on the relevant court, tribunal or board website. 

Courthouse security

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The majority of larger courthouses have front-of-house security screening, or primary security checkpoints, in place. Members of the public are required to be searched as they enter the courthouse or they will not be permitted entry. You may also be required to pass through security screening prior to entering a courthouse registry.

Please allow extra time when attending at a courthouse as the screening line can be busy, particularly prior to the commencement of proceedings.

At some courthouses you may be asked to walk through a portal and x-ray machine.  In other locations, hand held wanding may be in place. At hand held wanding stations security officers will also check the contents of bags and other items. Officers are trained to be respectful and discrete.

Some shoes, belts, jewellery and other clothing items will give a positive indication by the metal detection equipment. If that occurs you may be required to demonstrate where the metal is located in the item being examined, or remove the item and put it through the x-ray.  The security officers will guide you on what is required.

If you are unable to be scanned due to a physical disability or medical implant, tell the security officers and they will assist you.

Prohibited or controlled weapons are not to be brought into the courthouses. These include (but are not limited to) firearms, knives (including credit card type knives), knuckle dusters, pepper spray, batons and bows. If you are found with these items whilst trying to enter a courthouse the items will be seized and handed to WA Police. You could face possible charges preferred by WA Police.

No drugs, no weapons, no alcohol

Other items that are not prohibited, such as scissors and tools, cannot be brought into the courthouse. When detected during screening you will have the option of not bringing them into the courthouse (by returning them to your car, for example) or surrendering the items to security officers, who will receipt the items and return them  to you as you leave the courthouse.
Security officers are often present in the courtrooms for hearings. If you have any security concerns during your hearing or while you are in the building, you should raise them with a security officer.

Page reviewed 12 May 2020