Chapter 2
Publication contempt


2.1Publishing material that prejudices the administration of justice may be contempt of court. Contempt arises when a publication crosses the line between fair and accurate reporting and interference with the course of justice. The contempt may take the form of interference with a particular case that is before the courts or may more generally prejudice the course of justice by eroding access to justice or public confidence in the justice system.

2.2Contempt by publication is one of the few areas of contempt that remains purely judge-made common law.116 The authority to punish the contempt falls within the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction. Only the High Court has jurisdiction to punish for this form of contempt, even where it occurs in relation to proceedings in another court.117

2.3In this chapter we consider the current law of contempt applying to publications that interfere with the right to a fair trial and examine the case law applying to public statements and other publications seeking to improperly influence a litigant or the courts. We then outline proposals contained in our Issues Paper and feedback from the submissions we received. The chapter concludes with our recommendations for reforming publication contempt.

116Courts also have statutory and implied powers to suppress publication of specific information. These powers are discussed below.
117See the discussion on the difference between inherent jurisdiction and the more limited implied powers of courts in chapter 1 at [1.11]–[1.16].