What is contempt of court?
If you are guilty of contempt of court you may be sent to prison. It is therefore important to know what this means and how somebody may indeed be in risk of contempt of court.
Contempt of court is essentially where somebody is deemed to have interfered with the administration of justice. This may take several forms but each of them will result in justice itself not being properly carried out. It is for this reason that contempt of court is seen as such a serious offence and which results in possible prison sentences.
By committing contempt of court you are betraying the entire justice system. Given the serious nature, if you have been accused of such an offence you should contact a solicitor immediately.
Examples of contempt of court
A recent example of what could constitute contempt of court would be revealing somebody’s identity that had been protected by the courts. A number of high profile celebrities have recently used super injunctions to prevent the press publishing stories about them.
Where a super injunction has been granted, the particular judge has clearly felt that the individual’s privacy should be protected and therefore has granted the injunction. If a particular newspaper were to then publish a story naming the individual with the benefit of the super injunction, then they could be deemed to be in contempt of court and face possible imprisonment.
Another example would be if you were called to partake in jury service. As a member of the jury you will often, at the end of a trial, be sent to a room to deliberate over the case and then finally vote as to whether the particular defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Under UK law, deliberations in the jury box are confidential and must not be disclosed to anybody other than a fellow member of the jury. If, for example, you serve as a member of a jury and then after you leave the jury room you inform somebody else what was said in the jury room or who voted which way, you are in breach of court and may be sent to prison.
Statement of Truth
The issues in relation to contempt of court are important to understand because often somebody will be asked by their lawyer to sign a document known as a “Statement of Truth”. This will often be at the bottom of an individual’s statement in court proceedings.
Given that statements will be used in every type of law imaginable, it is quite likely that you may one day have to complete one of these. A statement of truth is signed by an individual who is stating that everything in his or her statement is true. If this later turns out to be incorrect, and the individual knew it was incorrect at the time of signing the statement, then they can be sent to prison for contempt of court.
The law uses the notion of contempt of court to uphold justice. If, using the above examples, somebody could break a super injunction without being punished, reveal secrets of a jury, or lie on a statement of truth, then super injunctions would hold no power whatsoever, members of a jury could be intimidated and not vote according to their genuine belief, and witness statements could be completely false.
When these examples are placed together it is clear as to why contempt of court is so important, because it allows the courts to operate in a way that promotes justice. It is for that reason that contempt of court carries a possible prison sentence.