Executive summary

What is the law of contempt?

1The law of contempt of court is essential for the justice system to work fairly, expeditiously and cost effectively.

2Contempt is committed by those who disrupt court business, interfere with fair trials, fail to comply with court orders or make false and egregious attacks on the judiciary as an institution. Contempt is not concerned with preventing legitimate criticism of judges or their decisions or with protecting the feelings of individual judges.

3The ultimate sanctions for contempt are imprisonment or a significant fine. These sanctions create a strong incentive for people to comply. Consequently, in many cases, courts are able to rely on the existence of the power to ensure court business does proceed fairly, expeditiously and cost effectively.