What to expect coming to a court or tribunal

Find out what you should bring for a court or tribunal hearing, how you can get support, and what to expect on the day

Before your hearing

What to bring with you

If you are coming to a court or tribunal for a hearing, you should bring:

  • your hearing letter with your case number - the case number helps you find where you need to go in the building
  • any papers that you need for your hearing.

What to wear

There are no rules about what you should wear. If you can, dress smartly.

You are not allowed to wear anything on your head unless it is for religious reasons.

You may be there all day

You need to arrive by the time stated in your notice letter.

The time given in your letter is when the day’s cases start. Your case might not be first so be prepared to wait.

Make any arrangements you need to, for example childcare or taking time off work.

Food and drink

You can bring your own food and drink into the waiting area. Not all buildings have refreshments available.

Who can come with you

You may want to bring someone with you for support, such as a friend or family member. They may not be able to go into the hearing room with you.

There are no childcare facilities and staff cannot look after your children while you are in the hearing room.

Your safety

We know that coming to a court or tribunal can feel overwhelming or frightening.

We have security at all of our buildings.

You should contact the court or tribunal on your letter if you have any worries about your safety on the day.

There are other things we can do to help you feel safe, for example:

  • seat you in a different part of the building to others in your case while you wait
  • provide a screen in the hearing room so that the other party cannot see you

If you have a disability

You can get support in the court or tribunal building and during your case. This is sometimes called a ‘reasonable adjustment’.

Before your hearing date, contact the court or tribunal on your letter to let them know what you need.

For example this could be:

  • ramps or accessible toilets
  • a hearing loop
  • forms in large print
  • guidance in audio or easy read formats

The day of your hearing

Going through security

You will have to go through security when you arrive, so give yourself a bit of extra time.

There are items you cannot bring (such as sharp objects, or liquids other than drinks).

If security staff take an item from you when you enter the court building you can ask for it back when you leave.

Find out more about going through security

Help from our court staff

Our court staff can help you find something or answer any questions you have. They cannot give you legal advice.

Going into the hearing room

Your mobile devices must be on silent when you are in the hearing room.

A member of staff will call you into the room and show you where to go.

You must stand up when a member of staff calls ‘all rise’. This means the judge or magistrate is about to come in to the room. They will also tell you when you can sit down again.

If the judge or magistrate is already there you can sit down straight away.

The judge or magistrate

You may see some people bow to the judge or magistrate when they walk in or out of the hearing room. You don’t have to do this, but you can if you want to.

When you speak to the judge or magistrate, be polite and speak clearly.

There are lots of different names for judges. It’s okay to call them ‘sir’ or ‘madam’.

Speaking and taking notes

When you go into the hearing room someone will explain who will speak and when.

You will be given time to ask any questions that you have and give evidence in your case. If you have a solicitor or barrister, they will ask questions for you.

You can take notes, but you must not take photos or videos.

Swearing an oath

Before giving evidence you will be asked to swear an oath on a holy book or make a legally binding promise (known as an affirmation) that your evidence is true.

You can tell a member of staff which holy book you need.

If you need a break

You can ask the judge, magistrate or a member of staff if you need to take a break during your hearing.

You may breastfeed or express milk in all our buildings.

Find out about breastfeeding in a court or tribunal building

The judge’s decision

At the end of the hearing, the judge or magistrate may leave the room for a short time to think about their decision.

They may make a decision on the day, or the decision will be sent to you by post afterwards.

Published 30 January 2020
Last updated 7 February 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added translation

  2. First published.