On the day of the trial you must be prepared and have all of your supporting material available. See the Preparing for trial section for details.

Finding the right courtroom

The location of all SA Courts can be found on the Court Locations page. The page includes information about the location and a map of each area.

Once in the court, check the Case List. The Case list will detail the courtroom you must attend. If your case is not listed, ask for assistance at the Registry counter.

You should arrive at and enter the courtroom at least 5 minutes before the trial time. As you enter the courtroom Court staff will be waiting to take your details. They may be wearing a Sheriff’s Officer’s uniform or plain clothes. Provide you name and the case you are there for and they will provide further instructions.

Once in the courtroom you are expected to follow the Court Behaviour.

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Courthouse security

Uniformed Sheriff’s officers maintain security in all the courthouses. All Sheriff’s officers are trained to provide a safe environment for everyone in the courthouse. Everyone who enters the courthouse walks through an airport style metal detector (not in country locations) and may be scanned with a hand-held metal detector. Nothing that could be used in an offensive manner is allowed into the building.

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Duration of hearing

There is no set time limit for a trial. It will be as long or as short as is necessary for the magistrate to hear all of the evidence. It is uncommon for a minor civil trial to take the whole day.

You will be given a time you must be at court, but this does not mean that your case will begin at this time. It may be later depending on how many trials the magistrate will be hearing that day. You will need to wait in or around the courthouse until your matter is finished. You might have to be there for the whole day but make sure you do not leave before your matter is heard. If you absolutely must leave, let the court staff from your allocated courtroom know before you leave.

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Things to bring

Make sure you bring all of the evidence that you want the magistrate to see or hear about. This includes any documents or witnesses you want to rely on to prove your case. If you don’t have any documents or witnesses then you just need to tell your story to the magistrate and you will not need to bring anything. It is helpful to bring a pen and paper to court. See the Preparing for trial section for further information.

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In the courtroom

Magistrates take control of their courtrooms, so how a trial runs may vary a little.

Some magistrates will ask the plaintiff (who is making the claim) to move to the witness box to give evidence. Some magistrates allow evidence to be taken from what is called the bar table, the place where both parties sit facing the magistrate.

In any event, the magistrate will ask the plaintiff to speak first. The plaintiff will be asked to swear an oath or to make an affirmation stating that what the plaintiff is about to say is the truth.

It is important to tell the truth, because lying to a court is a criminal offence.

The magistrate will ask the plaintiff a series of questions or ask the plaintiff to tell the plaintiff’s side of the story to the court. Once this is over, the magistrate will ask the defendant (the other side) if the defendant wants to ask any questions of the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff has witnesses, the court will hear from the witnesses once the plaintiff has finished giving evidence.

After the plaintiff and witnesses for the plaintiff are finished, the magistrate will follow the same procedure with the defendant.

Try to keep your statements to the Magistrate short and to the point. Make sure you formulate some sort of plan of what you are going to say before you get to court. You don’t need a script, but make sure you know what information is vital for the magistrate to hear. See the Preparing for trial section for further information.

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After the trial

You may not get an answer from the court immediately after the trial.  If your case is unusual or complex, the magistrate might wish to take some time to think about it. The court will tell you when to expect the decision. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to come to court again. It is usual that the decision will be posted to you. Sometimes a matter will need to go on longer than the day it has been set down for. If your matter does not finish that day, the magistrate will organise with you and the defendant another convenient date for you both to come back to court.

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