Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court

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

  • 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

  • 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 (s134 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989) 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.

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.

“Was there contempt?”
The Law
The section that covers this offence is section 134 of the Magistrates’ Court Act.

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