If you’re attending a criminal court for sentencing, here are some tips to help reduce your stress.

I’m Gavin Hanrahan, a criminal solicitor with Turnbull Hill Lawyers. For most people, attending court for the first time is a stressful experience and it should be stressful and a bit uncomfortable. The plan is not to encourage a repeat performance. Going to court involves two parts: getting ready for your appearance and your appearance.

If you’ve got a solicitor, then your appearance in court should be the easiest part for you. In court, your solicitor will do 99% of the speaking and your speaking will probably be limited to, “Yes, Your Honour” and “No, Your Honour”. If you haven’t got a solicitor, then you need to know a bit more about appearing in court.

When you get to court, look for a court officer. Usually they will be outside the courtroom or racing in and out of the courtroom with a clipboard and a list of all the court matters. Let the court officer know your name and they will mark it on the list. They should also let you know when the magistrate’s ready to deal with your matter.

When you go before the magistrate, you should refer to the magistrate as Your Honour. The magistrate will probably ask you a question such as are you pleading guilty or not guilty? And the magistrate will probably ask you, is there anything else you want to say?

Whether you’ve got a solicitor or not, you do control how prepared you are for your day in court. There are a number of things you can do in preparation which should reduce your stress on the day.

Firstly, know where you’re going, know where the court is located, where you can park, where you’re going to meet your solicitor. If you’ve got enough time between now and when you go to court, why not do a practice run? Drive to the court, find the nearest long-term car park, and walk to where you’re going to meet your solicitor.

The next thing you can do is the night before your appearance, ensure you’ve got all your necessary documents in one place. These documents may include your character references, if you’ve got a traffic offenders program certificate, a letter of apology to the magistrate, or similar documents that you may have discussed with your solicitor.

It’s also a good idea to get your clothes you intend to wear ready the night before you go to court. Having your documents and clothes ready the night before should mean you’re less stressed on the day of your court appearance.

I recommend you wear nothing less than good casual clothes, a pair of dress pants with a long sleeve collared shirt, and if it’s cold, a neat jumper or sports coat. It is less stressful being overdressed than underdressed.

And finally, arrive early. It would be best if you arrive at court at least ten minutes before your nominated time. Hopefully, this information will make your day in court a little less stressful.

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