Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice

Archbold: Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice

Quoted passages from the section dealing with “OFFENCES AGAINST PUBLIC JUSTICE – E. CONTEMPT AT COMMON LAW”. These quotations are not taken out of context, but quoted with additional highlighting (underlining):

Sir John Donaldson M.R.: “Mens rea in the law of contempt was something of a minefield. The reason was that it was wholly the creature of the common law and had developed on a case by case basis”.

In Dean v. Dean [1987] F.L.R. 517, C.A. (Civ. Div.), the court said that: “Contempt of court, whether civil or criminal, is a common law misdemeanour and it had long been recognised that proceedings for contempt were criminal or quasi-criminal in nature and that the case against the alleged contemnor must be proved to the standard of criminal proof namely, beyond reasonable doubt”

Until Att-Gen v. Newspaper Publishing plc and others [1988] Ch. 333, C.A. (Civ. Div.), there was widespread acceptance of the classification of contempts as being either civil or criminal. Civil contempt consisted of disobedience to an order of the court in circumstances where the disobedience is principally a matter that affects the parties to the case. Sir John Donaldson (again) later pointed out that the classification was not really relevant, since contempts have to be proved to criminal standards anyway.

Buckley J. held that “No contempt had been committed because the case was to be tried by a Judge sitting alone, who would be unaffected”

At common law, a contempt of court is an act or omission calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice: Att-Gen v. Butterworth Islands, re a special reference from [1893] A.C 138. There is no impediment to a court making a finding of contempt, when it is appropriate to do so, not against the Crown directly but against a government department or a minister of the Crown in his official capacity: M. v. Home Office and another [1993] 3 All E.R. 537, H.L

Lord Diplock in Att-Gen v. Times Newspapers Ltd. [1974], ante, outlines the various ways which the due administration of justice might be prejudiced: “The due administration of justice requires first that all citizens should have unhindered access to the constitutionally established courts of criminal or civil jurisdiction for the determination of disputes as their legal rights and liabilities; secondly, that they should be able to rely upon obtaining in the courts the arbitrament of a tribunal which is free from bias against any party and whose decision will be based upon those facts only that have been proved in evidence adduced before it in accordance with the procedure adopted in courts of law; and thirdly that, once the dispute has been submitted to a court of law, they should be able to rely upon there being no usurpation by any other person of the function of the court to decide according to law. Conduct which is calculated to prejudice any of these requirements or to undermine public confidence that they will be observed is contempt of court”

Thus, airily waving away the legitimate concerns of a Litigant-in-Person, whose Common Sense has been used to make reasonable statements and ask reasonable questions and requests, must be deemed to be – at the very least prima facie – Contempt of Court, by virtue of undermining public confidence.

Conspicuous – by absence – from anywhere in the discussions of Contempt of Court, are the following, which form the corollaries to what has been said:

  1. That justice is served by counting costs – the implication being that justice will not be served by counting costs and that counting costs is, therefore, a Contempt of Court.
  2. That justice is served by using expedient means – the implication being that justice will not be served by using expedient means and that utilising expedient means is, therefore, a Contempt of Court.
  3. That justice is served by denying Indefeasible Human Rights – the implication being that justice is not served by denying Indefeasible Human Rights and that any denial of Indefeasible Human Rights is, therefore, a Contempt of Court.
  4. That justice is served by means of rules designed with any or all of the above in mind – the implication being that designing or implementing or following or observing such rules is not serving justice and is, therefore, a Contempt of Court.

It seems hard to argue anything else, when set against (even, for example) what Lord Diplock said in 1974.

None found.
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