Single contempt law gets government backing

by Sol Dolor23 Aug 2017
The government of New Zealand has formally backed the Law Commission’s recommendations after a review of the country’s contempt-of-court laws.

In a report presented to the House of Representatives in June, the commission made 68 recommendations covering five types of contempt. New Zealand’s contempt-of-court guidelines are currently found in a mix of case law and statutes, and the commission recommends replacing most of the common law with a contempt statute.

“The law of contempt is designed to protect the administration of justice and maintain public confidence in the justice system. It underpins the functioning of the justice system and helps to ensure the courts operate fairly, effectively and efficiently. The government agrees with the Law Commission’s assessment that the law of contempt requires modernisation and clarification,” the government said.

In its report, the commission proposes refining and clarifying contempt as a single law is passed to cover the area. It recommends replacing common law with a clearer statutory provision for publication contempt, which would prevent publication of information that interferes with fair trial rights. This would be supported with suppression orders and take-down orders for online material.

For disruptive courtroom behaviour, the commission recommends measures to add procedural protections for people cited for contempt. For non-compliance of court orders, the commission recommends new enforcement provisions to replace common law.

The commission also recommends offenses for jurors who research information on matters relating to trials, anyone who discloses jury deliberations, and anyone making abusive allegations against judges and the courts.

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