What is Contempt of Court?
Being held in contempt of court doesn't simply mean saying something offensive in Court. Read about what it is in this article.
When can someone be held in contempt of court?There’s a number of different ways in which someone can be held in contempt of court. Some types of these include:
Disobedience of court ordersCourt orders are intended to be abided by. A person or party to proceedings can be held in contempt if they do not comply with Court orders. If someone is held in contempt in civil trials, the offended party can seek remedies (such as through costs) at the end of proceedings. If this happens in criminal trials, the Court will impose the relevant punishment.
Contempt by publication and the sub judice ruleThis occurs when someone involved in proceedings reveals confidential information before it has been resolved at trial.
Scandalising the courtScandalising refers to conduct ‘which attempts to bring disrepute to, or lower the authority of the court. This often involves trials which cover controversial issues. Although the judiciary are and should be open to criticism, this rule steps in to protect the public order.
Disrespecting the courtDisrespecting the Court has more to do with following correct procedure. For example, refusing to bow as the Judge enters the courtroom or disrupting proceedings.
The Purpose of the OffenceThe purpose of “contempt of court” is to protect the course of justice, the public interest, and respect the individuals who interpret and apply the law. Therefore, the main purpose is to protect the public and the legal system by preserving the authority and power of the court and the people who administer the law and justice. It’s to make sure that people don’t see themselves as above the law and to set an expectation of respect.
The PenaltiesThe crime of “contempt of court” can result in imprisonment for 28 days or a $2,200 fine. However, the crime of disrespecting the court carries a 14-day prison term or a $1,100 fine.
What Do I Do if I Have Been Charged with This?If you are charged with contempt of court or need further clarification of what it is always a good idea to consult a criminal lawyer. Ultimately, a criminal lawyer will be able to explain exactly what it is and assist with possible court proceedings.
Janette is a Legal Tech Intern at Lawpath as part of the Content Team. She is in her third year of a Bachelor of Laws with the degree of Bachelor of Social Sciences (Major in Criminology) at Macquarie University. She is interested in Migration Law and Access to Justice.