Aug 1, 2013

Contempt of court

The Law Commission (UK), a statutory independent body created by the Law Commissions Act 1965 (UK), in their consultation paper on contempt of court, published in November 2012, states as follows:  
“Contempt of court” covers a wide variety of conduct which undermines or has the potential to undermine the course of justice, and the procedures which are designed to deal with them. The law governing contempt of court is vast. 
According to TheFreeDictionary (1 August 2013):
An act of deliberate disobedience or disregard for the laws, regulations, or decorum of a public authority, such as a court or legislative body. Individuals may be cited for contempt when they disobey an order, fail to comply with a request, tamper with documents, withhold evidence, interrupt proceedings through their actions or words, or otherwise defy a public authority or hold it up to ridicule and disrespect. Contempt of court is behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice, and dignity of the court. Contempt charges may be brought against parties to proceedings; lawyers or other court officers or personnel; jurors; witnesses; or people who insert themselves in a case, such as protesters outside a courtroom. Courts have great leeway in making contempt charges, and thus confusion sometimes exists about the distinctions between types of contempt. Generally, however, contempt proceedings are categorized as civil or criminal, and direct or indirect.

Giggling teen flips judge the bird, judge not amused
By Mike Krumboltz
Never mess with people who have the power to make your life miserable. That includes DMV employees, waiters and baggage handlers. And judges. Especially them.
A Miami woman facing drug charges made her situation much worse when she laughed at and then flipped off the man with the gavel. File this case under: Ill advised.
According to NBC Miami, 18-year-old Penelope Soto was in court for charges relating to possession of Xanax, a prescription drug. Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat was in the process of setting her bond. He asked Soto about the value of her jewelry. Soto laughed. That was strike one.
"It's not a joke, you know, we're not in a club now," Rodriguez-Chomat said. "We are not in a club. Be serious about it."
Soto replied: "I'm serious about it, you just made me laugh. You just made me laugh, I apologize. It's worth a lot of money."
The judge said, "Like what?" Soto compared the jewelry to a wealthy rapper. She replied that the jewelry is "like Rick Ross. It's worth money."
The perplexed judge asked if Soto had taken drugs within the past 24 hours, to which she answer, "Actually, no." The judge then set Soto's bond at $5,000 and said, "Bye-bye." Soto chuckled and said, "Adios." Strike two. The judge summoned her back and raised the bond to $10,000, eliciting gasps from those in the courtroom.
Soto asked if the judge was serious. Judges are not known for their humor, and Rodriguez-Chomat is no exception. "I am serious," he said. "Adios."
But Soto wasn't done. Instead of leaving the courtroom she flipped Rodriguez-Chomat the bird and said "F*** you." And that was strike three. Soto was again called back and then sentenced to thirty days in the big house for contempt of court.

Jurors jailed for contempt of court over internet use
Attorney General Dominic Grieve: "Ignoring the judge's instructions is unacceptable behaviour"
Two jurors have each been jailed for two months for contempt of court after one posted a comment on Facebook and the other researched a case online.
Kasim Davey, 21, of London, wrote a strongly-worded Facebook message during the trial of a man for sex offences.
The High Court ruled he and Joseph Beard, 29, who was a juror on a separate fraud trial, "interfered with the administration of justice".
There have been two previous similar prosecutions of jurors.
After the attorney general was given permission to bring the cases earlier this year, Davey and Beard were summoned to the High Court where two judges heard the evidence against them before deciding whether they were guilty.
Strong language
Davey, from Palmers Green, north London, said he had sent the Facebook message last December as a result of "spontaneous surprise at the kind of case I was on".
His posting - containing strong language and an offensive word - suggested he was going to find the defendant guilty, said BBC News home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw.
Davey's Facebook post: read: "Woooow I wasn't expecting to be in a jury Deciding a paedophile's fate, I've always wanted to Fuck up a paedophile & now I'm within the law!"
The judge at Wood Green Crown Court was alerted and Davey was discharged. The defendant, Adam Kephalas, was eventually found guilty of sexual activity with a child.
Davey told the High Court he was unaware he had been in breach of a formal order made by the crown court judge. He accepted he was not meant to discuss the case but believed he was only prohibited from using the internet to carry out research.
In their ruling, High Court judges Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Sweeney said they rejected as "untruthful" Davey's contention that his message was not meant seriously.
They said it made clear to his Facebook friends "he would use his prejudices in deciding the case" and his choice of words "underlined his disregard of the duties he had undertaken as a juror".
In Beard's case, the High Court heard claims that he had wanted to find out how long the proceedings at Kingston Crown Court would take as he was worried they would drag on.
He was said to have researched the case via the Google search engine and told fellow jurors extra information about the number of victims of the alleged fraud.
The case was abandoned in November last year after more than five weeks when his activity came to light. The two defendants in the fraud case were later found guilty at a retrial.
'Undermining justice'
At the High Court, Sir John - who is shortly to take over as the Lord Chief Justice, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales - said "immediate custodial sentences are almost inevitable in cases of this kind".
In his ruling, he said that "every attempt is made to try and warn jurors not to use the internet or social sites for any purpose in relation to the case".
He added: "They have done this so that no juror can subsequently claim that he or she did not understand what they should not do and what the consequences might be."
But Sir John said he would invite courts to consider whether a practice adopted by some judges of also handing out a printed notice should be "universally followed".
Speaking after the case, Attorney General Dominic Grieve said jurors who use the internet to research a case "undermine justice".
Mr Grieve added: "It creates a risk that the defendant will be convicted or acquitted, not on the evidence, but on unchallenged and untested material discovered by the juror.
"Equally, the case of Kasim Davey shows that jurors must follow the directions given to them by the trial judge not to discuss the case outside the jury room, including discussions and posts on the internet."

In Malaysia, Order 52 Rule 1 of Rules of Court 2012, states:
Order 52. Committal
1. In this Order—
“Court” means the High Court, Sessions Court and Magistrates’ Court;
“Judge” means a High Court Judge, Sessions Court Judge or Magistrate.
Committal for contempt of Court
2. The Court may, on the application of any party to any cause or matter or on its own motion, make an order of committal in Form 107.
Contempt committed in the face of the Court
2A. (1) If a contempt is committed in the face of the Court, it shall not be necessary to serve a formal notice to show cause, but the Court shall ensure that the person alleged to be in contempt understands the nature of the offence alleged against him and has the opportunity to be heard in his own defence, and the Court shall make a proper record of the proceedings.
(2) Where a Judge is satisfied that a contempt has been committed in the face of the Court, the Judge may order the contemnor to appear before him on the same day at the time fixed by the Court for the purpose of purging his contempt.
(3) Where such person has purged his contempt by tendering his unreserved apology to the Court and the Judge considers the contempt to be not of a serious nature, the Judge may excuse such person and no further action shall be taken against him.
(4) Where such person declines or refuses to purge his contempt, then the Judge shall sentence him.
Other cases of contempt
2A. In all other cases of contempt of Court, a formal notice to show cause why he should not be committed to the prison or fined shall be served personally.

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