Being an Observer
Court cases are public events. Some may be closed to the public if particularly sensitive (family courts are often private, for example). Most, however, are open to the public. Not many people go, and often the public gallery seats are empty. But you are able to walk in without invitation, sit down, and watch as much as you want.
What you can gain from going to visit a court should not be underestimated:
- You will get a feel for law in operation, helping you decide if law is something you are really passionate about.
- You will better understand the criminal justice system and the criminal process.
- You will better understand legal roles, particularly those of criminal barristers and judges. This information may help you make decisions about your future.
- Law is often thought to be boring and just about books. Visiting a court shows you what it is all about. Someone’s life might change as a result of the verdict. It is emotional, exciting and dramatic.
- You will have an experience that you can draw upon when writing your personal statement or applying for work experience.
Follow these few simple rules:
- Turn your phone off and keep it off.
- Do not talk or make loud noise. You can whisper quietly.
- If you decide to leave, try to do so quietly. You may want to wait until a break in the evidence.
- When the usher calls for the court to rise (when the judge enters or leaves) stand up. It will be obvious when this happens because everyone else in the court will stand up.