Review underway on state’s contempt of court laws
The state of Victoria will examine its contempt of court laws as part of a review which will consider whether they should be “modernised to enhance public confidence in the justice system and allow for clearer enforcement”.
The review, commissioned by the Andrews Labor government, will examine a number of recommendations made by former Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent following his review of the Open Courts Act 2013.
According to a statement, this includes: “contempt in the face of the court, such as disrupting or obstructing court proceedings; sub judice contempt, such as publishing information that could interfere with a court proceeding or a person’s right to a fair trial; juror contempt, such as a juror acting improperly by conducting an unauthorised internet search while participating in a trial; contempt by breach of court order, such as publishing information that breaches a suppression order; and contempt by scandalising the court, such as an ongoing interference of justice by publishing information casting doubt on the integrity and impartiality of a judicial officer”.
The government noted that it will will “also examine the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958, which restricts reports on certain judicial proceedings, and consider whether it should be reformed to better align with the Open Courts Act”.
It will also assess whether existing penalties for breaching publication restrictions are adequate, and whether the level of fault required to prove these offences is appropriate, the statement explained.
“The commission will make recommendations about existing suppression orders made before the introduction of the Open Courts Act. The review is expected to be completed by the end of 2019,” it said.
Commenting further, Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the review is about making sure the laws relating to contempt of court and suppression orders are working effectively by protecting victims, but also the public’s right to know as well as court processes.
“This major review responds to key recommendations made by Justice Vincent following his review of the Open Courts Act, and will provide more clarity around contempt of court matters,” he said.