Scandalising courts no more

Courts
The offence of scandalising the court looks soon to be relegated to history.


A form of contempt, the offence covers conduct likely to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice, such as publication of statements attacking the judiciary.

Following a consultation last year, the Law Commission brought forward publication of its recommendation in favour of abolishing the offence, in December 2012. This was released just in advance of the House of Lords debate, and acceptance of, the necessary amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill.

There has been a lack of clarity surrounding the exact nature of the offence, defences available and compatibility with freedom of expression and human rights. The last successful prosecution for scandalising the court in England and Wales was in 1931. It has been used more recently in other common law jurisdictions, most notably Attorney General for Northern Ireland v Peter Hain MP in Northern Ireland in spring 2012.

The Bill continues its passage through the House of Commons.

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