What happens at court?
It is natural to be nervous or apprehensive about going to court. For most people this will be the first time and there will be the fear of the unknown.
Hopefully this article will help to elevate these feelings. It is unlikely to get rid of them completely.
If you have fully prepared and given yourself plenty of time, there really is nothing to worry about.
Furthermore if you have hired a barrister they will take control for you.
On the day:
- Either check the hearings lists or ask at reception to find out which court you are attending;
- Depending on which court you are attending, the hearing will usually take place in the district judge’s chambers. So it’ll feel like an office rather than a court. However you may still attend a courtroom although this will still be classed as in the district judge’s chambers;
- It is possible that as well as you there will be your opponent, their lawyer, witnesses and experts in attendance.
- You will be before a judge known as either a district judge or deputy district judge.
- Address the district judge as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ and only speak when asked to speak unless you are at the end of the hearing and there is still something you would like to address. In which case ask the judge;
- Prior to the hearing the judge should have read the papers that you and your opponent have filed at court;
- The judge will speak first and will usually check who everybody is;
- Unlike other hearings there is no set agenda for how the judge will handle it so be prepared to be flexible as the judge may not take matters in the order you expect;
- With the above in mind plan out the key points that you want to make.
- The judge may ask the Claimant to give a summary of their case and then asks the defendant to answer each of the points made. Whether you are a Claimant or Defendant, remember the key points you want to make and speak clearly and concisely in your own words.
- Alternatively, the judge may feel she/he already has a good understanding of the dispute from reading the papers and start the hearing by asking a series of questions.
- Alternatively the judge may just ask the Claimant to raise one point and then ask the defendant to reply i.e. deal with the hearing issue by issue.
- It may be useful to take notes of what your opponent says as you could spot weaknesses in their arguments and refer back to their comments when addressing the judge again.
- Check where the hearing is taking place. You can use the Court Finder in the attached link (http://hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/ex342-eng.pdf). If in doubt call the court;
- Check your travel arrangements and journey time;
- Arrive with plenty of time, particularly if you arranged to meet up with your barrister before the hearing;
- Make sure you have all the papers you want to rely on or the bundle if one has been produced. If viable have a spare copy.