Executive summary

Structure of the Report

19The Report is divided into seven chapters.

Chapter 1 Introduction

20This chapter explains what the law of contempt of court covers, why it is important and why we need reform. It also outlines the process we undertook to conduct our review and introduces our recommendations.

Chapter 2 Publication contemptTop

21This chapter mainly addresses publications that interfere with a person’s right to a fair trial. This is most often the context in which a publication interferes with the administration of justice. The chapter also considers publications that interfere with access to justice by trying to influence the course of those proceedings or pressuring a litigant to settle or withdraw. The chapter focuses on temporary suppression of information that poses a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial. Accredited media will receive a right to be heard in relation to any suppression decision under the recommenced provisions. We also recommend a new statutory offence to replace the common law in this area.

Chapter 3 Disruptive behaviour in the courtroomTop

22This chapter looks at how the courts deal with disruptions in the courtroom. The primary issue we consider for the purpose of our recommendations is whether there should be a statutory procedure for managing disruptions in the courtroom. The chapter also considers and recommends some changes to the scope of disruptive behaviour. Under the proposed new provision there will be an increase in the level of maximum fines available.

Chapter 4 Juror contemptTop

23This chapter considers the law of contempt as it applies to jurors. In this chapter we address the problem of the googling juror, who undertakes his or her own research, and the problem of jurors or others disclosing confidential jury deliberations during or after the trial. Our recommendations aim to clarify the law as it applies to jurors as well as proactively managing the risk that jurors will unwittingly jeopardise a fair trial.

Chapter 5 Non-compliance with court ordersTop

24This chapter concerns the contempt of failing or refusing to comply with a court order. In civil proceedings, contempt is an important enforcement mechanism that is available to litigants if court orders made in their favour are not complied with. Here we consider whether Parliament should enact a new statutory regime to respond to non-compliance with court orders in civil proceedings.

Chapter 6 Abusive allegations and false allegations against judges and courtsTop

25This chapter deals with the contempt of undermining confidence in the court itself by false and egregious attacks on the judiciary. We consider whether this contempt, known as “scandalising the court” or “scandalising the judiciary”, should be abolished as a form of contempt under the common law. We recommend that it should, but that there should be a new offence enacted in its place to address untrue allegations or accusations that pose a real risk of undermining public confidence in the judiciary and the courts.

Chapter 7 Inherent jurisdiction, prosecutions, and penaltiesTop

26This chapter considers whether, in view of the new statutory offences we have recommended throughout the Report, we should abolish all common law contempt and replace it with statutory offences, perhaps including a general residual offence. The chapter also discusses the prosecution procedure for the new statutory offences and whether we need some special arrangements for prosecuting these new offences. Finally, it explains the rationale behind penalty levels for the new offences.