McNae’s Chapter 18 – Contempt Of Court pp.230-52
Contempt is anthing which interferes with course of justice.
Contempt of Court Act 1981 applies only when publication carries a substantial risk of serious prejudicethe a trial.
WHAT CAN BE PUBLISHED:
Only non-prejudicial, basic information about the crime can be published.
Name, age, date of crime.
The media can report there has been a robbery.
The media can report where it took place.
The media can report someone was later arrested.
The media cannot say THE robber was later arrested.
WHEN CASES ARE ACTIVE:
When criminal and civil cases become and cease to be actie:
WASO – (W) Warrant (A) Arrest (S) Summons (O) Orally Charged
Information which could breach the rule – and why – examples.
Also applies online.
Less important in civil cases without a jury BUT could still affect witnesses.
WEN CASES CEASE TO BE ACTIVE:
Arrested person is released without charge, unless on police bail.
No arrest is made within 12 months of an arrest warrant being issued.
The case is discontinued.
The defendant is sentanced or aquitted.
Defendant is found to be unfit to stand trial or unfit to plead.
Court orders the charge to lie on file.
CONTEMPT OF COURT ACT:
Strict liability of Contempt of Court Act 1981 – Section 1of the act made contemmpt by publication a strict liability offence in the case of ‘actie’ criminal or civil proceedings.
Prosecution does not have to prove whether they intend to create a risk.
The editor or media organsiation is judged purley on the actual effect of what was published.
WHAT IS A SUBSTANTIAL RISK OF SERIOUS INJURY:
No definition in Act.
Each case is decided on its own facts.
Case law includes:
References to previous conviction.
Suggestions of dishonesty or bad character.
Evidence linking them directly or indirectly to the crime.
Suggestions they are guilty.
Mr Jeffries Case – (Get Details)
Daily Mirror Fined £50.000
The Scum Fined £18.000
Attorney General said the articles gave the overall impression that Mr Jeffries had the ‘propensity’ to commit the kind of crimes he had been arrested for.
Mr Jefries won damages from eight newspapers for libel.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT:
Reporting restrictions – prevent prejudice.
Previous Convictions, bad caharacter.
If a whitness account was published: witness might feel obliged to stick to teh published story.
Evidence could have been ruled inadmisable so not heard in court – jurors could be influenced by interview in the newspaper.
BUT once the trial starts it is acceptable to report proceedings contemporaneously.
OTHER FORMS OF CONTEMPT OF COURT:
SECTION 8 – Must not obtain, solicit or disclose any detail of jury statements, opinions arguments or votes during trial.
When are legal discussions during a free trial, the media should not report any such material until all the verdicts are reached.
SECTION 9 – Ban on audio recording devices being taken into court/used without permission. This is illigal.
OTHER FORMS OF CONTEMPT:
eg. failing to obey an injunction prohibiting publication.
Failure to obey a court to reveal the identity of a source.
NB: When might a court order you to reveal ID of a source?.
National security risks.
SECTION 3 – defence of not knowing proceedings were active. BUT must take reasonable care.
You MUST press for clarification on whether proceedings are active…
Police often don’t make it clear whether a person has been arrested or is helping with inquiries.
*You must ensure you have done all you can to ensure proceedings are not active at time of publication, prove phone call, email, texts, when and who spoke to.
Police appeals for media assistance. There is no defence under the 1981 Act to say you can; but there has never been a prosecution for contempt for it.
if the newspaper took all reasonable steps to check whether proceedings were active.
You need to make regular checks.
Who did you speak to?
Burden of proof is on you.