This section provides basic information for people who are required to attend a court or tribunal for a hearing to which they are a party.

The court hearing

To ensure that your presentation to the court is the best that you can give, remember the following:

  • there are no fixed rules about what to wear, but a neat and tidy appearance is more likely to create a positive impression. Your head and eyes should not be covered by a hat or sunglasses, unless this is necessary for religious observance or due to a medical condition;
  • use ‘Madam’ or ‘Sir’ to address people if you do not know how else to address them; if you are speaking to a magistrate, you should address them as ‘Your Honour’;
  • remain polite and courteous, especially when under stress – being rude or abusive will not persuade the magistrate of the value of your case;
  • listen carefully to what is being said by everyone in the room, so that you can respond accurately;
  • take notes during the hearing to help you to remember what was said, when it was said and who said it;
  • only one person may speak at a time. If you are not sure whether or not it is your turn, simply ask, ‘May I say something, please?’ This will ensure that you have your say, at the appropriate time;
  • make sure you respond to the arguments made by the other side. Address each argument separately and refer to the notes you have made during the proceeding;
  • communicate clearly – you need to speak clearly and present your arguments in a logical, step-by-step way. You will not persuade the court by talking about things that do not relate to your case;
  • listen carefully so you can answer any questions the magistrate or tribunal member asks you. It will not be helpful to push ahead with an argument just because you have prepared it in advance. You need to listen and respond to what the decision-maker wants to know;
  • always feel free to tell the magistrate if you have further information that you believe is relevant to your case that they have not yet heard, or to request a brief break.

Note that you are allowed to have a friend present at the court hearing; they can support you by taking notes and giving you quiet advice. Your friend is not permitted to appear for you, and may not advocate for you. In other words, you must do the talking and arguing yourself.

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