Etiquette and manners are important aspects of the court system. They help to maintain the decorum of the court, ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice, and demonstrate respect for the rule of law.
Etiquette and Manners Legal Penalties ?
While there are no specific laws or penalties related to court etiquette and manners, it is generally expected that all participants in the court system, including judges, barristers, solicitors, and members of the public, behave in a professional and respectful manner.
Show respect to the Judge
One of the most important rules of court etiquette is to show respect for the judge.
This includes standing up when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom, addressing the judge as “Your Honour” or “Sir/Madam,” and speaking only when spoken to.
It is also important to remain quiet and attentive during court proceedings, and to avoid any disruptive behaviour such as talking loudly, eating or drinking, or using mobile phones.
Court Dress Code
Another key aspect of court etiquette is dress code. Participants in court proceedings are expected to dress appropriately and professionally, with men typically wearing suits and ties and women wearing similarly formal attire. Revealing or provocative clothing is not considered appropriate for court.
Rules specific to Barristers
In addition to these general rules of court etiquette, there are also specific rules related to the behaviour of barristers. Barristers are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism and to act in accordance with the Bar Standards Board Code of Conduct. This includes showing respect to the court and to other participants in the legal system, and refraining from any behaviour that could be seen as disrespectful or unprofessional.
Barristers are also expected to be polite and courteous to their clients, and to treat them with respect and professionalism. However, this does not necessarily mean that barristers must always agree with their clients or follow their instructions.
Barristers have a duty to act in the best interests of their clients, even if this means disagreeing with them or offering advice that they may not want to hear.
How to Address a Judge ?
- High Court Masters, Insolvency and Companies Court Judges and Deputy District Judges are also to be addressed as ‘Judge’
- Senior Judges, Court of Appeal Judges and High Court Judges are to be addressed as ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’
- Circuit Judges are to be addressed as ‘Your Honour’
- Deputy District Judges are to be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’
- Magistrates are to be addressed as ‘Your Worship’, or ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’
It is quite telling of the Judiciary and Justice system that the article What do I call a judge? published on the Judiciary website makes no account for transgender people.
How to Address a Barrister ?
There are also specific rules related to how barristers should address judges and other legal professionals. Barristers should also address other barristers, solicitors and Litigants in Person(LIP) by the appropriate pronoun usually followed by their surname.
Judges have the power to enforce order in the court and maintain decorum and to reprimand participants who engage in inappropriate behaviour. This includes the power to issue warnings, to impose fines for contempt of court, and to remove participants from the courtroom if necessary.
Inappropriate behaviour in court can take many forms, but generally refers to any behaviour that disrupts court proceedings or shows disrespect for the court or other participants in the legal process. Examples of inappropriate behaviour might include:
- Speaking out of turn or interrupting court proceedings
- Using offensive or disrespectful language
- Failing to follow court rules or directions
- Ignoring the authority of the judge or court
- Failing to show respect for the court, such as by not standing when the judge enters or leaves the courtroom
It should be noted that Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 protects your right to hold your own opinions.
This is a qualified right which lets you hold opinions and express them freely verbally, in writing, through television, radio or the internet.
The Law and Practice Directions
There are a number of laws, practice directions, and rules that govern court proceedings and provide guidance on appropriate behaviour. These include:
- The Contempt of Court Act 1981, which outlines the types of behaviour that may constitute contempt of court and sets out the penalties for contempt, including fines and imprisonment
- The Family Procedure Rules, which set out the rules for the conduct of criminal proceedings in courts in England and Wales
- The Criminal Procedure Rules, which set out the rules for the conduct of family proceedings in courts in England and Wales
- The Civil Procedure Rules, which set out the rules for the conduct of civil proceedings in courts in England and Wales
- The Practice Directions issued by the courts, such as the Supreme Court, which provide guidance on procedural matters and court etiquette.
Unwrite rules on Etiquette and Manners
In addition to these legal rules and guidance, there are also unwritten rules and traditions that govern court behaviour and etiquette.
These are based on longstanding traditions and customs and are designed to ensure that court proceedings are conducted in a respectful and dignified manner.
Overall, judges have a range of powers to enforce order in court and to ensure that court proceedings are conducted in a fair and respectful manner. Participants in court proceedings are expected to follow the rules and guidance set out by the courts, and to behave in a professional and respectful manner at all times.
Admonished by a High Court Judge
On the 2nd November 2022 at the High Court of England and Wales, I as a Litigant in Person (LIP) directly called the barrister Mr Gavin Howe a liar in Court.
This was a public hearing and the transcript could be requested using the form EX107: Order a transcript of court or tribunal proceedings.
Mrs Justice Roberts of the Family Division of the High Court, immediately admonished me and said that I should show Mr Howe “more courtesy and respect”.
Similar to a politician in parliament, I rephrased my factual assertion to comply with the rules of etiquette :-
“Mr Howe has attempted to either deliberately mislead the High Court by lying or is totally incompetent”.
This must have been acceptable to Mrs Justice Roberts as the hearing continued in earnest.
Read our review of Gavin Howe Barrister and make up your own mind about a currently practising Barrister’s Competence, Etiquette and Manners.
Check out our articles on His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board and the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
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