​​

Going to court

The NSW Department of Justice is committed to providing inclusive services for people with disability. This includes all the courts and tribunals in NSW. We want to make it easier for people with disability to get assistance when attending court.

Why people go to court

People go to court for many different reasons including:

Courts in NSW

There are three main courts in NSW:

The Local Court hears most cases that come before a court. Local Court cases are heard by a magistrate. Visit the Local Court website.

The District Court hears serious cases, including criminal trials that are heard by a judge and might be decided by a jury. Visit the District Court website.

The Supreme Court hears the most serious cases, including murder. Trials like these are heard by a judge and might be decided by a jury. Visit the Supreme Court website.

There are other courts and tribunals in NSW that deal with a range of legal matters. See a list of all the courts and tribunals in NSW

Security and safety

Sheriffs officers provide security in courts to make sure courts are a safe place for everyone. Sheriffs officers wear a blue uniform but they are different from police officers.

Many courts use walk-through metal detectors and x-ray machines to check what people bring with them to court - just like at the airport. Visit the Courts and Tribunals webpage to find out what you can and can not bring with you to court.

If you are scared about seeing the person who hurt you at court, you should tell someone who works at the court or a sheriffs officer. They will help you find somewhere safe to wait until your case is called.

In cases of domestic violence, support services will usually be available at the court. The Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service provides assistance at over 100 courts in NSW.

Find out more about how the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service. The service can help you before, during and after court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) provides a witness assistance service for all the matters that the DPP is involved in. These matters are normally serious cases that can be heard by a judge and jury.

Find out more about the Witness Assistance Service on the DPP website.

Disability Inclusive Services

If you require disability access to any courthouse, it's important that you contact the court that you will be visiting as soon as possible and talk to them about your needs. 

Some areas of the courthouse may not be accessible but staff will do their best to assist you.

Inclusive services can include large print, Auslan interpreters, hearing amplification, and the use of a support person.

Contact the court to discuss the best way to meet your needs.

Find out more about Department of Justice disability inclusive services.

Requesting reasonable adjustments

Clients attending court who require reasonable adjustments are encouraged to advise staff by indicating the adjustments required using the form in the Request for court assistance brochure [PDF, 432kb].

Request for Court Assistance now includes translated statements in 10 languages (PDF 27kb)encouraging clients to ask staff about the disability assistance they require. Languages include Arabic, Chinese simplified and traditional script, Dinka, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Tamil Thai and Vietnamese.

Time

For all courts it is important that you turn up to court on time.

Transport NSW 131 500 (Greater Sydney only) can help you plan your trip with accessible routes and times. In regional areas contact your local transport service. You should ensure you are not late for court as the court can deal with your case with out you. This means the court may make orders against you.

As courts are very busy you may have to wait and it is important that you do not leave until your case has been heard. You should speak to the court officer to let them know that you are waiting for your case to be called.

Once your case has been heard check with the office to find out about the orders that have been made by the court and to sign documents.

Appropriate behaviour

In the courtroom you will be expected to:

  • Bow towards the front of the court when you enter and leave the courtroom

  • Call the judge or magistrate 'your honour' when you are speaking to them

  • Switch your mobile phone off

  • Not eat or drink  

  • Remain silent unless the judge or magistrates asks you to speak to them

  • Be respectful of the court's decisions

If you are asked to give evidence (that is tell the court what happened):

  • You will need to decide if you want to make an oath or an affirmation. An oath is swearing to tell the truth by referring to God. An affirmation is swearing to tell the truth but not referring to God or any religious beliefs.

  • You should tell the truth

  • Say if you don't understand. Don't guess.

  • Tell the court if you need a disability related adjustment

A video has been developed to assist people with cognitive disabilities that are required to attend a local court as a witness or a defendant. The video “ So you have to go to court!” can be viewed online and describes who is who in the local court (PDF 118kb), how the court works and things you need to remember if you are a witness or a defendant.

Contact Diversity Services for a free copy of the DVD and resource kit.

There are many complex legal terms that are used in court. The Justice Journey dictionary explains legal words that may be used in court. For people who are Deaf, the NSW Deaf Society has produced legal information in Auslan which is available on their website.

People with disability and jury service

A number of trial courts provide disability access facilities for people who are serving on a jury.

The Department of Justice is working to modify trial courts throughout NSW to provide wheelchair access to trial courts where juries regularly sit.

If you have a disability and are summoned to attend court for jury service, call the Sheriff’s office at the court you are required to attend to discuss disability access for jurors.

Wherever possible, the Sheriff will arrange for reasonable adjustments to allow people with disability to fully participate as jurors.

Hearing loops

To assist people who are hard of hearing overcome the variations in court room acoustics the Department uses permanent and portable infrared systems .

These are similar to hearing loops but ensure that the information stays within the courtroom.  To find out how to ensure the infrared system is available next time you go to court download Can you hear in the courtroom? (PDF 548kb)

Community Justice Centres

Community Justice Centres provide mediation and conflict management services to help people resolve disputes without going to court.

Mediators work to resolve disputes between neighbours, within families, workplaces and in larger communities.

This service is free, confidential and available throughout New South Wales.

Legal Help 

Request for Court Assistance

Request for Court Assistance [PDF, 432kb] is a brochure about seeking reasonable adjustments at court.

The brochure includes a form you can use to request adjustments.

Can You Hear in the Court Room?

Can You Hear in the Courtroom? [PDF, 548kb] is a brochure about a system similar to the hearing loop used in court for people who are hard of hearing.

So You Have to go to Court!

So You Have to go to Court! is a video guide about attending court for people with cognitive disability.