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November 28, 2012

UK law commission starts consultation on contempt of court law

The consultation paper focuses on four areas which include contempt by publication, the new media, contempts committed by jurors, and contempt in the face of the court

By CBR Staff Writer

The UK law commission has started a consultation to review the country’s laws regarding contempt of court.

The commission said that a number of high-profile cases involving contempt of court have recently highlighted the need for a review of this area of the law.

The consultation follows a number of recent contempt proceedings, including a juror who was found to have researched the defendant on the internet and the first internet contempt by publication, that concerned the posting of an incriminating photograph of a defendant on a website.

The cases also include contempt proceedings for the vilification of Chris Jefferies during the investigation into the murder of Joanna Yeates and proceedings for contempt by publication following the collapse of the prosecution of Levi Bellfield.

David Ormerod, who is leading the consultation, 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," Ormerod said.

The consultation paper focuses on four specific areas which include contempt by publication, the new media, contempts committed by jurors, and contempt in the face of the court.

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According to the commission, the new media pose a number of challenges to the existing laws on contempt of court, which pre-date the internet age.

The consultation will continue until 28 February 2013.

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