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Contempt Of Court Notes

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This is an extract of our Contempt Of Court document, which we sell as part of our Media Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge And Oxilp And College Of Law students.

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Contempt of Court

1) Are proceedings active?

When are proceedings active? - Schedule 1 Contempt of Court Act 1981

Criminal proceedings

Become active When the 'initial step' has been taken such as being:



Subject to an arrest warrant issued; or

Summonsed to appear in court

Cease to be active When proceedings are 'concluded' such as:

An acquittal

Sentence has been given (not merely verdict)

Discontinuance of the active proceedings

Other decisions ending proceedings

Release after arrest (except on police bail)

After 12 months following a warrant if no arrest has been made

Civil proceedings

Become active When arrangements are made for the hearing (case is set down on the waiting list for trial)

Cease to be active When the case is discontinued or disposed of Yes Are proceedings active?

Consider Statutory Contempt This applies to proceedings which are active at publication - s.2(3) CCA

Consider Common Law Contempt

Also consider Statutory Contempt as although proceedings are not currently active, they may be in the future

2) Statutory Contempt ?
Strict Liability Contempt - s.1 Contempt of Court Act 1981

1) What is Strict Liability Contempt?

"Conduct...tending to interfere with the course of justice in particular legal proceedings regardless of intent to do so" - s.1 CCA 1981

2) To what standard must it be proved?

The prosecution must prove the criminal standard of proof ?
Beyond all reasonable doubt

3) Has there been or will there be a publication? - s.2(1) CCA 1981

a) Defined to include speech, writing broadcast or other communication


4) Is there a substantial risk that the course of justice will be seriously impaired or prejudiced? - s.2(2) CCA 1981

b) Satisfied if the publication is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public - s.2(1) CCA 1981

a) Defining the terms

Substantial risk ? More than just a remote or minimal risk. Does not need to be a high risk

Serious prejudice
? Will not be satisfied if:

There is only incidental prejudice;

It is 'merely' prejudicial; or

There is only a small degree of prejudice
? Will likely be satisfied if:

It is enough to justify a stay of proceedings; or

It is enough to justify an appeal against a conviction

b) Each publication must be considered individually on its own facts and circumstances

A-G v MGN and others (1997) Facts

Daily Mirror published news items with banner headlines and photographs pending a trial for assault and wounding

An order was made for a stay of proceedings on the basis the defendant could not receive a fair trial

A-G brought contempt proceedings against publications Held


Each publication had to be tested separately at publication

No individual publication was found to have created a substantial risk of serious prejudice

A-G v MGN (2011) Held


Confirmed the 1997 case

However held that each individual publication did in their own right create a substantial risk of serious prejudice

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