For many people, attending Provincial Court is their first contact with the justice system. It can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect can help.
Provincial Court judges are addressed as ‘Your Honour’ inside the courtroom. (Outside court, they are addressed as Judge, followed by their surname, for example, Judge Smith.) Judicial justices who deal with bail, traffic and bylaw matters are addressed as “Your Worship” when they are presiding. Judicial case managers who preside in some pre-trial court appearances are also addressed as “Your Worship”.
The judges of this court wear black and red robes, traditional court attire for a Provincial Court judge. People’s lives are affected in significant ways in court, so the formal attire reflects the seriousness of the court proceedings. Lawyers don’t wear robes in Provincial Court, although they do in the Supreme Court.
Dress as you would to attend a job interview or go to a religious service. This is a way to show you respect the court process and understand that a court is a more formal setting. For example:
- no short shorts, tank tops, 'muscle shirts', 'belly shirts' or bare feet
- no clothing with disrespectful slogans or pictures
- remove sunglasses, chewing gum, and baseball caps or other hats before going into a courtroom (religious headwear excepted)
- leave food and drinks outside a courtroom
- turn off cell phones before entering a courtroom
Members of the public may not use electronic devices of any sort (including smartphones, cell phones, computers, laptops, tablets, notebooks, personal digital assistants, Google glasses and similar devices) to transmit or receive text, audio or video record, photograph or digitally transcribe in a courtroom. It is best to turn off any electronic device before you enter the courtroom. See Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms for more details. (The policy does permit limited use of some devices by lawyers and accredited journalists.)
For more information see Court Etiquette.
A daily court list is published that lists the cases that will be heard in each court house. It can be found online and posted outside courtrooms. You can use the list to find out the time and courtroom for your case.
If you are involved in a court case as a litigant or a witness, see Going to Court.
If you are a litigant appearing without a lawyer, these links may be useful:
- What can I expect in court? – articles on how to prepare and what to expect at different types of court proceedings (conferences, hearings, trials and more)
- Trial Preparation and Note Taking Skills - detailed advice on preparing and conducting a criminal trial. The same preparation can be done for family and small claims trials although in these matters any information you receive about the case you have to meet will come from the other party rather than the Crown.
- Links to Statutes - links to provincial and federal laws that are applied in Provincial Court
- B.C. Courthouse Libraries - a resource for researching the law that applies to your case
- Click-law laws, cases and rules - another legal research resource designed for people who are not lawyers
If you are involved in a family or small claims hearing or trial and don't have a lawyer, you may want to bring a support person to sit beside you for emotional support and quiet help. For more information see:
Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court
Support Person Guidelines
Court Adopts Support Person Guidelines
Choosing and Presenting a Courtroom Companion National Self-Represented Litigants Project offers a guide - see especially pages 4 to 14 for more information on choosing the right support person.
More information and useful links for people attending court without a lawyer:
- Resources for Family Cases under Preparing for a family court trial
- Resources for Small Claims Cases under Self Help Guides
- Resources for Criminal Cases under Preparing for a criminal trial
- Resources for Traffic, Ticket & Bylaw Cases
- Criminal Cases
- Family Cases
- Youth Court Cases
- Small Claims Cases
- Traffic, Ticket & Bylaw Cases
- Useful Links