Who can watch my court case?

Jul 23 2020

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham hundreds of years ago said “Where there is no publicity, there is no justice” and this has been part of Australia’s court system ever since. It means people are free to watch or report on your case whatever the circumstances which is why sometimes court is seen as a last resort in settling a matter.  During celebrity Accountant Anthony Bell’s recent AVO case we have seen everything from juicy text messages to details of alleged nasty conversations with his wife.

In most court cases proceedings and their decisions are accessible and viewable by the public which is known as open justice. Open justice is a fundamental principle of Australia’s legal system so courts and Judges remain transparent and accountable. So anyone is welcome to attend and watch your court case regardless of if you want them there or not.

Open justice also extends to the media who can report on court cases (but not use recording devices in court). Sometimes you see in news reports the sketch of an accused which is also allowed.

There are however some scenarios that prevent people watching or reporting on your course case but they are very limited:

Closed Court

During closed court, no one is allowed inside except those directly related to proceedings. Closed court cases commonly occur with sexual assault cases and cases with children. When a court is closed, there is usually a sign on the door saying closed court and people are not allowed to enter. If you enter without permission, you may end up in the cells for a night all by yourself!

In most court cases proceedings and their decisions are accessible and viewable by the public which is known as open justice.

Non publication / suppression order

Non-publication and suppression orders are typically only granted in exceptional circumstances.  Parties can observe these cases but are prevented from publishing details or identifying people. The fact that something is embarrassing is not a good enough reason in seeking these types of orders. However cases involving sensitive information or cases involving police informants or national security can be subject to non-publication orders. Gina Rhineheart has regularly attempted to obtain suppression orders for her many messy court cases citing security concerns. However on many occasions Judges have disagreed with her and allowed details of her highly personal cases to be published by the media.

So regardless of how shocking or embarrassing a court case is, the general public and media have a right to watch it and report on it if they wish.

Court is often not the only option available for resolving a dispute and Maspero Legal have over 27 years of using alternative methods such as mediation and negotiation.

Contact us on 02 8052 3322 or info@masperolegal.com.au to explore what other options are available for you.

Written by Jeremy Maspero