Contempt Laws Reviewed To Match the World of Today

The Law Commission launched a consultation on the effectiveness of the contempt laws in England and Wales.

This changes is required, as the world has drastically changed over the last 20 years with the arrival of the Internet. The new law will take into account how in some cases the use of Internet resulted in contempt of court and will also research how mainstream media and people publishing in blogs and tweets affect the court proceedings, in order to avoid any prejudice caused by this.

We talk about contempt of court, in cases, when justice has been undermined, disrespected or disobeyed  in some way. The English laws are very strict, when it comes to contempt of court, compared to other countries.

Currently jurors are not allowed to perform their own researches online on cases they are involved with., but research published in 2010 revealed that 12% of jurors in high-profile cases admitted going to the internet. They are required  to consider only the information given to them during the trial. In addition the court has the right to ban some information, related to the case participants, from the mass media and the public, considering that it might affect the jurors` opinion, even if not relevant to the case itself. Publishing some kind of materials, may be considered  as contempt of court.

Professor David Ormerod, the law commissioner leading the project, said: “The purpose of our consultation is to ask how, in a modern, internet-connected society, the law of contempt can continue to support the principles that criminal cases should be tried only on the evidence heard in court.

“We are seeking ways to protect the administration of justice and the defendant’s right to a fair trial while keeping to a minimum interference with the right of media organisations and private individuals to publish.”

The demand for these changes is high, especially having in mind  two cases with a great outcome in the media – the case of a juror, jailed for 6 months, because of doing research on the case online, in her free time and the case of two newspapers, accused and found guilty of contempt of court, because of publishing two photos online.

The Legal Stop is also a part of this ever-changing world, due to the Internet, because we offer legal documents online – something, which was impossible 20 years ago. So, take advantage on it!