English Law Commission Report on Contempt of Court: Court Reporting

The English Law Commission earlier this week released its report on Contempt of Court: Court Reporting.

The report is part of the Commission’s Contempt of Court Project that also looked at juror misconduct on the Internet and contempt in the face of the court.

Under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, publication of material which has the effect of risking serious prejudice to active court proceedings can in some circumstances be punished as a contempt of court. Liability can arise irrespective of whether the publisher was aware that the publication would create such a substantial risk.

The Commission’s recommendations include:

  • Ensuring that court reporting orders banning publication for the duration of proceedings are all posted on a single publicly accessible website (a similar website currently operates in Scotland)
  • Including a further restricted service where, for a charge, registered users could find out the detail of the reporting restriction and could sign up for automated email alerts of new orders
  • Where there are reporting restrictions in place relating to the names of parties to the proceedings (including those whose purpose is to protect other individuals who might be identified if the names of the parties were known) the online list will identify cases by number, with a suitably anonymised case name, as is currently the practice with public court lists

The Commission has provided quite a number of consultation documents, including one on contempt of court in other jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.

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