Joy Merriam provides five top tips for higher rights beginners on avoiding procedural and etiquette pitfalls in the Crown Court
So, you’ve finally received that precious certificate and are able to practise your advocacy in the higher courts. You may think that all you need to do is put into practice the skills you demonstrated in obtaining this accreditation, but understanding the procedure and etiquette of this brave new world can be just as important in helping to build your reputation – not least with the judiciary. Here are my five top hints and tips to get you started.
When you arrive at court, head for the robing room – make sure you have the code so you’re not left standing there waiting for someone who does! Sign in on the computer (or you won’t be paid), and get ready. I find a wig helps present the right image, but even if you don’t opt for one, make sure you look smart. This is surprisingly important – I recently observed a judge telling a young member of the Bar: “I would hear you better if your jacket were done up”! Leave any bags in the room – you should only take papers and book into court.
Find your opponent and let the usher know when you are ready. As in the magistrates’ court, make a friend of the usher if you don’t want to be last! Once in court, make sure you sit in the right place – unlike in the magistrate’s court, the prosecution aren’t always in the same place. Remember that the Crown always sit furthest away from the jury.
Unlike in the magistrates’ court, you never say good morning to a judge or a witness. You will normally be introduced by your opponent if you are defending; if not, open by saying: “May it please your Honour, I appear for the Defendant.”
Crown Court judges are usually addressed as “Your Honour” unless he / she is sitting as a High Court judge (red judge) or is a specially designated senior judge (such as the Recorder of Leeds). In those cases, he / she is addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lady”. All judges at the Central Criminal Court are addressed as High Court judges. If you’re unsure, ask the usher or watch to see what others do.
You’ve made it to lunchtime – well done! But in your eagerness for a sandwich do not refer to “lunch” – lunch is always called “the short adjournment”.
When your case ends, or if it’s lunchtime, you must not leave the judge without an advocate before him / her. So you must remain in court until he / she rises, or, if you are not the last case, you must wait until another advocate takes your place. If you don’t follow this rule, it’s known as leaving the court “undressed”.
Some of these rules might seem silly, but remember, as long as you know them, you can follow them at your own discretion. Best of luck!