Contempt of Court

– section 134 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989

contempt of court

 

Contempt of Court is when someone who is in Court acts in a way which interferes with the Court processes.

Examples of Contempt of Court
  • A witness in a court case has been summoned and refuses to produce a document required by the summons
  • Someone is summoned as a witness to a trial and will not attend
  • During cross examination in a trial, a witness refuses to answer a lawful question
What are some of the possible defences to a Contempt of Court charge?
  • You have a good reason as to why you could not produce the summoned document
  • You were unable to attend court because of a family emergency
  • You were not lying

There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions that are asked in cases like this:
  • What was the reason for your behaviour?
  • Do you think you were in contempt?

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with this charge

Contempt of Court is heard in the Magistrates Court. The offence is considered a very serious offence and if you are found guilty you will normally face a jail term.

 

“Was there contempt?”
What is the legal definition of Breach of an Intervention Order?

Under the Magistrates’ Court Act, Contempt of Court is when a witness refuses to attend court; does not produce required documents; refuses to answer questions; disobeys a court order; or in the opinion of the Magistrate, the witness lies.

Under the Common Law, the offence is broader and includes interference with the administration of justice.

The Law

The section that covers this offence is section 134 of the Magistrates’ Court Act.1

This is also a common law offence and therefore, the law surrounding contempt of court also comes from case law.

prison penalty sentencing

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

If you are found guilty of Contempt of Court, you will normally be punished with a fine.

 


[1] Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 – section 134


(1) A person is guilty of contempt of court if—
(a) having been summoned as a witness and having been given or tendered any conduct money required to be given or tendered, the person refuses or neglects without sufficient cause to attend or to produce any documents or things required by the summons to be produced; or
(b) having been summoned as a witness and having attended as required, the person refuses to be sworn or to answer any lawful question; or
(c) being examined as a witness or being present in court and required to give evidence, the person refuses to be sworn or to answer any lawful question or, without sufficient excuse, to produce any documents or things that the person has been or is required to produce; or
(d) being present in court and required to give evidence, the person wilfully disobeys an order made under section 127; or
(e) in the opinion of the magistrate the person is guilty of wilful prevarication.
(5) A person is guilty of contempt of court if—
(a) having been summoned in accordance with the Rules to attend at a sitting of the Court to be orally examined by the appropriate registrar concerning the failure to comply with an order for the payment of money and having been given or tendered any conduct money required to be given or tendered, the person refuses or neglects without sufficient cause to attend; or
(ab) having been summoned under Part 9 of the Infringements Act 2006 to attend at the Court to be orally examined by an infringements registrar and having been given any conduct money required to be given or tendered, the person refuses or neglects without sufficient cause to attend; or
(b) having been so summoned and having attended as required, the person refuses to be sworn or to answer any lawful question; or
(c) in the opinion of the appropriate registrar the person is guilty of wilful prevarication.