The letter you receive with the details of your family member’s hearing will include the date and time of the hearing. It is important to arrive at court on time for your family member’s court case. Most court cases are listed in a court room for a morning or an afternoon session. A morning session typically begins at 9.45am and an afternoon at 1.45pm. However this may vary between courts. It is best to phone the court you will be attending and ask to speak to ‘listings’. They will then be able to tell you at what time the case has been listed.
At the court there will be a number of cases listed at the same time and your case may not necessarily be the first. The order with which cases are heard depends on whether all the relevant paperwork has arrived at the court room, whether the defence solicitors are present, whether the defendant has attended and other considerations including the number of cases involving a defendant appearing from custody.
It is worth arriving a little earlier than the time listed as you will have to pass through a security process including a gate similar to that found in airports and sometimes a search procedure. Bags and other items such as coats are passed through an X-ray machine. You may also be searched using a hand-held metal detector.
If a pre-sentence report has been ordered at an earlier hearing and the defendant is on bail they may have to attend earlier than the time the case is listed to be interviewed by probation. The defendant will already be aware of this.
If you intend to drive to the court that there may only be limited parking available. Phone up and check with the court whether there is parking nearby and if you need to pay for it. If you are accompanying the defendant, whether by car or by public transport, leave enough time to get to the court. Judges are not normally very sympathetic to late comers and may issue a warrant for their arrest.
How will I know when a case has started?
When you first arrive at court you should find the court room that the case will be heard in. Each court is staffed by a member of staff known as an usher. They are there to ensure cases are called on in order and to assist those seated outside the court to know when they can come in.
Introduce yourself to the usher when you first arrive and tell them which case you are there to see. You can then take a seat outside the court and they will come out and announce the name of the defendant when the case is ready to begin.