Going to court

Knowing what it could be like before you go can help you feel more comfortable and confident. Find out more.

What it means to go to court

There are lots of different types of courts. Like criminal courts or family courts. All courts are slightly different and deal with different issues. If the police think that someone has broken the law, that person usually has to go to a criminal court.

Criminal courts decide whether the person has broken the law. If it's decided they have, the court will decide on how they can be punished.

Family courts are where decisions are made about divorce or where children are going to live if their parents split up.

Things to remember about going to court:

  • it's pretty normal to feel scared, stressed or even depressed about appearing in court
  • if you're worried, you can ask an adult for help, or call Childline and we can help
  • if you're ever not sure what someone in court is asking you, it's okay to ask them to say it again.

Words you might hear in court

If you're worried about going to court, it might help to learn some of the words used so you can better understand what's going on. 


In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, if you are aged 14 or over, you will be asked to take the oath before you answer questions in court, This means you promise to tell the truth. The person that asks you to do this is called a 'court usher'.

Before you go into the courtroom, tell the court usher (or court staff) if you:

  • have a religion and what holy book you use
  • aren't religious so you can make a different promise that doesn't mention God
  • have difficulty reading, so the usher will say the words first and ask you to repeat them.

If you are under 14 you will not be asked to take the oath but you will be asked to tell the truth.

In Northern Ireland, it works slightly differently - the court staff will always read out the oath and ask you to repeat it. 

What happens in court

Understanding the process