JN204 Lecture Notes - Homicide, Sub Judice
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October 9th, 2012
Week 5, Tuesday
Contempt of Court
contempt of court exists to ensure trial by court instead of trial by media and popular opinion.
Stems from serious concerns about what opinions and evidence potential jurors might hear before or
during a trial.
For the presumption of innocence to have any meaning, people charged with crimes must not be
convicted in the media and in the public mind before a court passes judgement.
High risk info:
Any suggestion that a suspect is guilty as charged before a conviction is made.
Revealing a defendants criminal record.
Publishing evidence that may never be presented in open court
Disclosing that a defendant has confessed to police.
The closer you are to a trial's commencement, the greater the risk of being charged with contempt of
court for something you're published.
Defining contempt of court
No definition in legislation exists.
“Any conduct that tends to being the authority and administration of law into disrespect or disregard”
or tends to “interfere with or to prejudice parties or witnesses involved in a case before the court”-
1960's Canadian judgement.
Indirect or external acts of contempt committed through the publication of information that is not part
of a court proceeding, or that attacks the character of a participant in a legal action.
SUB JUDICE contempt
Designed to protect cases that are currently before a court.
Aims to keep published accounts from misrepresenting a case or prejudicing the parties involved until
Sub judice contempt charges in criminal cases.
Journalists are only at risk of contempt if there is a live case before the courts.
The SUB JUDICE rule goes into effect once police or prosecutors file a charge formally or when a
judge summons an accused to appear in court or issues an arrest warrant.
The most blatant way to prejudice someone's right to a fair trial is to declare outright that he is guilty in
print or on air.
But hinting at a criminal past or activity, previous crimes or malicious intent is just as prejudicial in the
Journalists try to distance the accused from the crime itself in their reports
a published report will outline the charges filed, reconstruct the events before and after an offence and
describe the crime scene and investigative work of the police.
But the act at the heart of the charge, the theft homicide etc, should be attributed to an unspecified man
The accused is only identified in a seperate paragraph near the end of the story, noted as being charged
IN CONNECTION with a crime or as the person ALLEGED to have committed it.
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