October 11 , 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 juror