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Going to court is not something that many people look forward to. However, some tips and tricks can make going to court less intimidating and give you a better sense of your options and expectations for your day in court. These range from getting a sense of the physical space of the court (and ensuring you will not get lost on the day of your appearance) to understanding how to behave in court. This article covers three tips when going to court: 

  • visiting the court prior to your appearance; 
  • rules around behaviour and contempt of court; and 
  • how name suppression works and what to know when applying for it.

Visiting the Court Before Your Day in Court

Sometimes familiarising yourself with the physical space before your actual court date can make a huge difference, particularly if you are nervous about going to court. Luckily, in New Zealand, our courts are open to the public. 

You can visit the court you are due to appear in on any day during the court’s opening hours. If the courtroom is not in use for another trial on that day, you may even be able to look inside the courtroom to get a feel for where your case will be heard. Additionally, you can ask the reception or staff at the court if you have any questions about how the process works or what will be required from you.

Behaving Appropriately in Court

There are some general guidelines about how to behave appropriately in court. The setting can seem very formal and imposing. However, the basic guidelines are relatively common-sense and just mean you should behave politely at all times and follow official instructions.

As an example, you should not interrupt when other parties are speaking, unless you have a legal reason to object to a question being asked or how it is being asked. If you wish to object, you should quietly stand to indicate your objection. The judge will provide you with an opportunity to respond once the other party has finished talking. Whenever you are speaking to a judge or they are speaking to you, you should stand.

All people are expected to show respect for court processes when in court. This includes not eating or drinking whilst in court. There are also restrictions on the use of smartphones and other devices in court: in general, try to avoid these devices unless absolutely necessary.

Contempt of Court

It is important to avoid the offence of ‘contempt of court’, which involves serious penalties if you breach the rules of conduct in a legal proceeding. To avoid being charged with contempt of court, make sure not to: 

  • insult a judicial officer, an officer of the court (including the prosecutor), a registrar, juror or witness;
  • interrupt proceedings;
  • misbehave in court in any way; or
  • disobey any order or direction of the court during your proceeding.

Applying for Name Suppression

Generally, the media and anyone else are able to publish the names of yourself and any other party to a legal proceeding. However, where publishing your name might lead to undue hardship for yourself or another person, the court may grant you:

  • an interim (temporary) name suppression; or
  • a permanent name suppression.

This prevents anybody from publishing your name and any personal details that may identify you, or potentially the other party (such as a victim).

You complete a notice of application to apply for name suppression. In this document, you will set out the grounds for your application, any evidence, and other information such as whether the other party consents to you receiving name suppression or not. If you have evidence about the hardship or other difficulty you might suffer if the court publishes your name, you should send it along with the application and the court will take this into account when they decide whether to grant name suppression or not. 

The bar is relatively high for name suppression as the default in New Zealand is ‘open justice’, i.e. all aspects of the justice system by default are transparent and able to be viewed by the general public. 

Key Takeaways

There a few things you can be aware of to make your court experience less stressful and more effective, whether you are appearing for yourself or your business. One tip is that the courts in New Zealand are open, public institutions. That means that if you have the time and capacity, you can physically visit a court (even the courtroom you might be due to appear in) ahead of time, to familiarise yourself with the space.

When you actually appear in court, being respectful at all times is important, including following instructions from the judge and court. Finally, you should know about your ability to apply for name suppression if your case involves media. The court may grant you name suppression if you can show that you will suffer undue hardship if they publicise your name. If you want to know more about going to court in New Zealand, contact LegalVision’s disputes and litigation lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you visit a court when you do not have a case there?

Yes, you can. All courts in New Zealand are open to the public, and sometimes you can even look inside the courtroom itself. 

What is contempt of court?

Contempt of court is an offence covering a variety of unproductive, inappropriate or harmful behaviours in a court setting. Disobeying an order or instruction by a judge, or disrupting a proceeding in some way, are the kinds of behaviours that result in being charged with contempt of court. 

What is name suppression?

Name suppression is something the court can order when the publication of your name may lead to undue hardship or difficulty. Name suppression prevents the media and anybody else from publishing your name or personal details that might identify you. The bar is relatively high for name suppression in New Zealand. 

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