JN204 Lecture Notes - Voir Dire, Publication Ban, Trial
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October 11th, 2012
Week 6, thursday
contempt of court
pre trial, during trial and post trial. Criminal trials:
•the principle of open justice means that everything that takes place in a coutrroom is the public's
business by default.
•All information at every stage of a criminal case can be published, as long as there is no
statutory or court imposed publication ban.
•There is an automatic publication ban on voir dire hearings in jury trials, at which the jury is
•Voir dire- mini trial to see which evidence is admitted in open court or not.
•The public and reporters ay attend these hearings but not publish and details from them until
•The automatic ban on information presented at voir dire hearing expires as soon as jurors leave
the courtroom to begin deliberations. As they are sequestered.
•Unless a judge imposes a ban, media are free to report on all previously restricted details once
jury deliberations begin.
•No risk of contempt in publishing details in the charging document: the accused's name,
address, place of occupation, time and place of the incident, identity of the victim, the wording
of the law that's been breached.
•Judges will often overlook reports that are short, fact based, and neutral in tone.
•Stories that take a more sensational approach- lurid photos, front page positioning, colourful
commentary, are more likely to be found in contempt.
•the risk increases as the commencement of a trial draws nearer
•Background stories on the eve of a trial and stories published once a jury has been empanelled
are at greater risk of contempt.
•Disclosing a defendant's criminal rcord shortly before or during a trial is likely to result in a
mistrial and contempt charges.
•Unless the criminal record has been presented in open court, before a jury.
•General rule: if the jury has seen it in court, you're allowed to publish it.
•Reporting on retrials- when a defendant has won a new trial on appeal- can be seen as
prejudicial if you include information about the defendant's previous conviction.
•Reporting on parole hearings is low risk as long as you don't give an opinion as to whether
parole is deserved or not.
•Reporting that a defendant is in custody awaiting trial or showing images of him or her under
guard is low-risk.
•Discussing security measures not seen by jurors risks contempt as it may prejudice jurors.
•Avoid reporting the maximum penalty for an offence under the criminal code.
•Jurors never learn the maximum penalty, as it may lead them to believe a defendant's crime is
more serious than it is.
•It's fine to talk to lawyers to clarify something that happened in court.
•Avoid asking for additional evidence or reactions, as that might be prejudicial. Both lawyers
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