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Court Watching

Home > Sydney > Open Days | Rainy Day | Unusual Things to do
by Ian Sanderson (subscribe)
I am semi-retired and a lifelong resident and lover of Sydney. I enjoy wandering around the countryside, usually carrying a camera.
Published April 7th 2015
Lifestyles of the rich and notorious
Breathless reports of the lurid details of current court cases and inquiries such as the ICAC are a staple of print and electronic news. What you may not realise is that almost all these hearings are open to the public and are free. You can watch as the travails of absurdly wealthy families are exposed to public view. You can be shocked at the venality of public officials and neglect of duty by public institutions.

Courthouse

There is no guarantee of fireworks, and hearings are often boring. You will not be provided with copies of documents that engage the earnest attention of the legal eagles. But every so often you may witness a small moment of history and watching someone squirm under cross examination triggers satisfying schadenfreude. What you will certainly discover is how little of a day's proceedings make it to news reports, and how peripheral what is reported can be to the gist of the hearing.

News reports will tip you off when something worth watching is happening but taking pot luck and wandering into random courts is occasionally interesting. If you know the name of a litigant the location of a hearing is disclosed in publicly available and searchable court lists for civil and criminal cases under State jurisdiction (most cases). You can filter your searches by selecting options under "Search NSW court lists". Federal Court lists are also available, although Federal Court cases tend to be on the dry side. Royal Commissions and other inquiries usually have their own web sites which provide hearing details and locations. The ICAC website is here . Sometimes, but not often, courts are closed to the public. This is usually done if the hearing involves children or there is some security reason to close the court. Family Court hearings are always closed. With popular hearings press and public can fill public galleries.

Etiquette is straightforward. No cameras or sound recording. Turn your phone off. If someone tells you to stand up, do it. If a judge is in the courtroom bow to him or her as you enter or leave the room. No singing. You will be security scanned before entering a courthouse.

Courts and Tribunals are scattered through the city. The Supreme and Federal Courts are located in the Law Courts Building at Queens Sq at the top of King St. The District Court can be found in the Downing Centre and John Maddison Tower in the block between Bathurst, Liverpool, Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets.

There are District Courts sitting at Parramatta and sometimes at Penrith and Campbelltown.

Hearings usually start at 10-00 am and finish at 4-00 pm, with breaks for morning tea and lunch.
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When: Monday to Friday, 10-00 am to 4-00 pm
Where: Courtrooms in Sydney
Cost: Free
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