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Contempt: Summary of Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
63 pages
This summary of a report by the Australian Law Reform Commission closely examines the existing law of contempt in Australia and recommends a broad brush approach to reform.
The report defines contempt of court as a doctrine of common law according to which courts are empowered to inflict summary punishment on those who interfere with the administration of justice. Five types of conduct which may constitute contempt are discussed: improper behavior in a courtroom during a hearing; attempts to improperly influence participants in a proceeding; contempt by publication, such as publishing material which tends to prejudice the fair trial of a case; failure to comply with a court order; and other forms of interference, including taking reprisals on witnesses or jurors because of their testimony or actions in court. Also considered are noncompliance with court orders in family law and contempt in relation to commissions and tribunals. The report recommends abolishing common law principles of contempt and replacing them with statutory provisions governing both substance and procedure. Rules governing contempt, except for contempt in the face of the court and disobedience contempt, should be recast as criminal offenses. The report summarizes the commission's 124 recommendations for reform.


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