Main Text: Osinbajo, Y. and Fogam,K. (1991). Nigerian Media Law. Lagos: Gravitas Publishments.
Contempt of court It is common practice in most countries of theworld to establish a court system to settle legaldisputes and maintain law and order, and such a court system must have authority which must not be revered and unimpeded.
Contempt of courtThe law which guarantees the authority andfunctioning of the legal system in such a waythat such authority is not flouted or impeded isthe law of contempt, which is a body of rulesestablished to safeguard the dueadministration of justice.
Contempt of courtThe application of this law stems from theextraordinary powers of judges to control whathappens in and around the court premises.
Contempt proceedings are subject to twoprincipal sources of law:1. Common Law2. Statutes
Common Law Principles on Contempt What does contempt involve?“Contempt of court is a generic termdescriptive of conduct in relation to particularproceedings in a court of law which tends toundermine that system or inhibit citizens fromavailing themselves of it for the settlement oftheir disputes”.
Common Law Principles on Contempt What does contempt involve?“any act or publication that delays or interfereswith the administration of justice in the courts,or that causes justice to miscarry, or that tendsto have either of these effects may, under thelaw, be held to be in contempt of court and bepunished by fine or imprisonment or both”.
Common Law Principles on Contempt What does contempt involve?Perhaps the most favoured definition is :“…any conduct that tends to bring theauthority and administration of the law intodisrespect or disregard or to interfere with orprejudice parties litigant or their witnessesduring litigation”. (J.F. Oswald)
Common Law Principles on Contempt What does contempt involve?It is important to note that the law of contemptis quite uncertain and inexact, though it isfrequently classified into two namely:1. civil contempt2. criminal contempt
Common Law Principles on Contempt Civil ContemptCivil Contempt, also known as “Contempt inprocedure” or “Constructive Contempt” is awrong done to a person who is entitled to thebenefit of an order or judgment
Common Law Principles on Contempt Civil ContemptThe primary purpose of civil contempt is tocoerce compliance with the court order orruling.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Civil ContemptA good example of civil contempt is the failureof a party to a civil suit to carry out the terms ofa verdict or decision, or the willfuldisobedience of court orders or disobedience toa subpoena.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Civil ContemptAlthough, civil contempt often takes place outsidethe court and is essentially an infringement againstprivate rights, the effect is usually a delay, aninterference or an obstruction of the fairadministration of justice.It is therefore punished as if it is criminalcontempt, with a jail sentence which endswhenever the court order is obeyed.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Criminal ContemptCriminal contempt “consist of any acts or wordswhich obstruct or tend to obstruct or interfere withthe administration of justice.”Thus any obstruction of court proceedings or courtofficers, attack on court personnel, and deliberateacts of bad faith or fraud are examples of criminalcontempt.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Criminal ContemptThere are two principal forms of criminalcontempt:* direct criminal contempt, and* indirect criminal contempt
Common Law Principles on Contempt Direct Criminal ContemptA direct criminal contempt consists of words spoken or act done in theprecincts of the court which obstructs or interferes with the dueadministration of justice or is calculated to do so.This is also known as facie curiae.The main factor that underlies direct contempt is the judge’s personalknowledge of the events that occurred.Two journalistic activities – taking pictures in court and refusal to testifyas to a news source or reveal the source of news have been known toresult in contempt.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Indirect Criminal ContemptIndirect criminal contempt also called ex faciecuriae is misconduct which occurs away fromthe court precincts but which still interfereswith the proceedings of the court.
Common Law Principles on Contempt Indirect Criminal ContemptIndirect criminal contempt (or constructivecontempt) is misconduct which occurs outsidethe vicinity of the court but which stillinterferes with the proceedings of the court.This may be: acts which interferes with theadministration of justice and publications which have the same effect.
acts which interfere with the administration of justiceany act which prevents or is intended toprevent such persons as judges, witnesses,solicitors, bailiffs, etc. from carrying out hisofficial duties is contempt of court.
publication which interferes with the administration of justicethese are:1. publications of false and inaccurate report ofcourt proceedings2. publications which discredits the court or judge3. publications likely to prejudice the fair trial orconduct of criminal or civil proceedings4. publications likely to interfere with the courseof justice
publication which interferes with the administration of justicepublications likely to prejudice the fair trial or conduct of criminal or civil proceedingsregardless of the form of the publication, there are three distinctstages in a trial in any or all of which newsmen or others may beliable in contempt of course because of their publicationsregarding a case. These are:1. before trial2. during trial3. after the verdict or decision has been rendered
when is a case sub judice?a case may be said to be sub judice once a writor charge or summons has been issued howeverthere may be a contempt as soon asproceedings are imminent but not yet initiated
the test of liabilitythe test is whether in the circumstances there was a real risk [not just a remote possibility] that the fair trial of the action was likely to be prejudiced