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CONTEMPT OF COURT

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					CONTEMPT OF
  COURT
       Substantial risk and serious
                prejudice
   The Contempt of Court Act exists to ensure the
    course of justice is not impeded or perverted and
    to ensure people have a fair trial.
   We are in danger of breaching the Act is we
    create a “substantial risk of serious prejudice”.
    And conviction carries a jail sentence!
   We are at risk when a case is “active” which
    means:
   A person has been arrested or a warrant for
    arrest has been issued
   A summons is issued
   A person is charged orally with a crime
        Substantial risk and serious
               prejudice 2
   A case ceases to be active when:
   The arrested person is released without charge
   There’s no arrest within 12 months of the warrant
   The case is discontinued
   The person is acquitted or sentenced
   He/she is found unfit to be tried

   The period between verdict and sentence is technically
    active but sentence is passed by a judge who is deemed to
    be “above prejudice”.
   The case becomes active again when an appeal is lodged
    but appeals are heard by judges. It’s very definitely active
    again is a re-trial is ordered.
        So what is “substantial and what is
                    “serious”?
   The defendant’s previous convictions or suggestions of his
    dishonesty or bad character
   Any evidence linking him directly with the crime
   Any suggestion that he is guilty
   Photographs or descriptions may also be a problem

   So what can we say?
   His name and the charge
   Basic details of the crime – facts unlikely to be challenged
   Basic background info – his occupation, former school, etc
   Tributes, memorials, funerals, etc
   REMEMBER – the nearer the trial becomes the more risk
    you run
        So what is “substantial and what is
                    “serious”?
   Once a case goes “active” journalists need to exercise great
    care – including being aware of what interviewees,
    contributors, phone-in callers, etc, may say
   Online is a problem. News websites must take down the
    “sidebars” which point users to previous stories – they may
    well now be prejudicial.
   Sometimes there is an order to remove the material totally
    from a website
   However…….if somebody wants to find previous stories,
    they will. There have been examples of jurors searching the
    web for details of their cases.
   The “fade factor” means the nearer the trial, the greater
    your problems.
                       Court orders
                        Section 4
   We have protection under Section 4 of the Act for our fair,
    accurate and contemporaneous reports.
   “Fair” means balance between prosecution and defence,
    attributing everything to the person in court who said it,
    making it clear the case continues.
   “Accurate” means we must ensure everything we say in our
    reports WAS said in court
   “Contemporaneous” means at the next available
    opportunity
   Section 4(2) orders are postponing orders. They prevent us
    from reporting all or part of any case because it may
    prejudice a future trial.
   They also prevent us reporting anything said in the absence
    of the jury.
                  Court orders contd
   It’s an offence to breach any order passed by a court. The
    Leeds footballers trial was aborted when a judge’s direct
    order was ignored in a newspaper report.
   We are not allowed to “record” any court proceedings in
    any way. This includes audio, video, photographs or
    sketches.
   This refers to the “precincts of the court” – usually the
    public pavement outside is OK for filming and pictures –
    jury members must never be shown.
   And all jury deliberations are confidential – we must never
    ask for, or report, their opinions on the case, their
    discussion or arguments or details of votes cast.
                Court orders contd
                   Section 11
   These allow a court to ban publication of a name
    – or any other matter
   Usually used to protect victims in blackmail
    cases, matters of national security and
    commercially sensitive cases
   They can’t be made if the name has already been
    mentioned in open court
   They are not just for the “comfort and feelings”
    of defendants – there must be a “real and
    immediate risk” if they fear attack or harassment
                   Court orders contd
                   Section 46 orders
   These are lifetime anonymity orders used to protect
    vulnerable or intimidated adult witnesses
   They’re passed if being named would limit their evidence or
    co-operation in the case due to their level of fear or
    distress.
   They are challengeable on the grounds of serious
    hampering of our ability to report the case and public
    interest.
   There also exists “special measures” such as giving
    evidence from behind a screen – these people may not
    necessarily be anonymous.

				
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