Open Justice and Court Etiquette

Anyone is able to view proceedings within the majority of NSW Courtrooms through a principle known as ‘open justice’. The principle is said to be essential to the administration of fair and just trials, ensuring awareness of the wider Australian community towards our legal system. Furthermore, media outlets are able to publish accurate and unbiased reports of the proceedings (John Fairfax & Sons v Police Tribunal of NSW (1986)), broadening access to understanding NSW Courts.


If you would like to view the proceedings of a NSW Court, there are a few rules and considerations to remember.


  • Whilst most Courts are open to the public, this does not include Family Law or Children’s Courts matters. Furthermore, specific courtrooms may be subject to suppression and non-publication orders, which prohibit or restrict the disclosure of information within the courtroom or are completely closed to the public. Typically, clear signs are used to convey any restrictions which apply.


  • It is against the law to record, both video or audio, or take photographs within courtrooms and court premises without permission from a judicial officer. The offence holds a maximum penalty of $22,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.


  • Upon arrival at Court, a security check with similar procedures to an airport will occur. Ensure compliance with all directions by police or security teams.


  • It is important to behave in an orderly and respectful manner, including wearing appropriate and tidy clothing.


  • As a signal of respect, it is customary to bow your head towards the Coat of Arms (located behind the judicial officer) before entering and exiting courtrooms.


  • Do not approach judicial officers or parties involved in a matter unless spoken to first. Always address a judicial officer with ‘Your Honour’ (judges and magistrates) or ‘Registrar’ (registrars).


When in doubt, court staff will be able to assist with any queries or concerns.


Open justice plays a significant role in maintaining the transparency of our legal system, however, it is important to follow appropriate etiquette within courts to ensure proceedings are efficient and fair.

If you or someone you know wish to discuss this issue further, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 8999 9809.

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