Law Week Five

CONTEMPT OF COURT = When a person acts in a way that is disobedient, defiant or disrespectful towards the authority, justice and or court e.g Luffy shooting down the WG flag: he is very disrespectful, defiant and disobedient.

  • Examples Of When You Could Be In Contempt

  1. If you breach a court order e.g a section 39 order on a child 
  2. If a publication creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to proceedings and proceedings are active
  3. If you report a person’s previous convictions
  4. If you identify a juror/member of a jury
  5. If you take pictures inside a courtroom or tape-record proceedings
  6. If you pay witnesses for stories who are due to show up in an up and coming trial
  7. Publishing material that can prevent one of the parties (defendant/plantiff) from receiving a fair trial

COMMON LAW CONTEMPT (pending proceedings) =  publishing material which creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to proceedings which are imminent or pending, with the intention of creating that risk or interfering with the administration of justice. You would breach it by being reckless e.g publishing an interview with a witness during a trial (because proceedings are still pending and if you publish this you could sway a juror)

STRICT LIABILITY CONTEMPT (active proceedings)= publishing material which creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to active proceedings. The court decides if the publication has created the risk regardless of the writer’s motives. e.g publishing a photo when identification might be an issue. The maximum sentence for this is two years imprisonment.

PROCEEDING = the process of appearing before a court of law so a decision can be made about an argument or claim : a legal action

Before Proceedings Start:

Before a person is arrested, the media can report all the facts of the case, interview victims and say a person’s previous convictions.

The only exception are teachers. Under the Education Act 201, the media can’t report the name of a teacher who has been accused of an offence unless they are charged.

The moment a person has been arrested automatic restrictions are put on the case under the Contempt of Court Act and the media has to be careful what it reports

A person is innocent until proven guilty and the media shouldn’t print anything which prejudices a person’s case and the right to a fair trial.

Proceedings start when:

  1. A person is arrested
  2. A person is charged
  3. A warrant for an arrest has been issued
  4. A summons has been issued (A summons is a form of legal process that forces the defendant to appear before the court on a certain day and to answer the complaint made by the plaintiff (the person that has been defamed) )

You’re safe from contempt if you’re helping the police catch someone e.g a robber on the run. You can publish a picture and details of the crime but if they’re arrested you can’t repeat the details until they are heard in court or at the end of a case to ensure you don’t prejudice a trial.

Contempt of Court ends when:

  1. A person is released without charge
  2. No arrest has been made within a year of a warrant being issued
  3. The case is discontinued
  4. The defendant is acquitted (found not guilty)
  5. The defendant was found unfit to be tried
  6. The court has ordered the charge to lie on file (there’s not enough evidence to pin the defendant down so he’s found not guilty)

SUBSTANTIAL RISK = This allows us to publish facts a while before the trial because the jury is likely to forget what they heard

  • This means as long as there’s a four month gap before a trial you can publish more information e.g a murderer may admit to killing a person but deny murder: You can print this if there’s a long gap before a trial but otherwise you may prejudice the jury
  • Under substantial risk, you can print more information of a case if it’s being held in a different area e.g if a trial is taking place in Nottingham you can print more details in Hull. You can call someone a murderer because it won’t prejudice a jury in a different town.
  • When a person has pleaded guilty or is convicted (found guilty and then later being sentenced), you can safely publish facts about them, even though proceedings are still ongoing, because at that point you can’t convince a judge

Exceptions That Allow You to Safely Breach Contempt

  • Under Section Three of the Contempt of Court Act the media is given protection for breaching the act if they didn’t know proceedings were active and had taken all reasonable actions before going to print.
  • If the police appeal (ask for a judge to reverse the decision they made on your case) for information to catch an offender through the media then you won’t be in contempt. e.g a defendant who’s facing a trial and has gone on the run: in such cases you can print the photo without any problems.

COVERING SEX OFFENCES 

When a person is a victim of a sexual offence e.g rape, sexual assault, they are automatically given life long anonymity (meaning to keep their identities anonymous/unknown) by the court under the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992.

Under Section One of the Amendment Act, after an allegation of a sex offence has been made, it’s illegal to publish anything that can lead people to identify the victim of the offence.

You can’t publish (It’s a ban, so the ban includes:)

  • The name
  • The address
  • The school
  • Their workplace
  • Any still or moving pictures of him/her
  • The order (the Sexual Amendments Act) starts from the moment an allegation is made by the victim or anyone else, even if no one is charged, and it’s automatic
  • It remains in place even if the allegation is later withdrawn , or whether the police are told, whether an offender is prosecuted (tried) and whether anyone is convicted
  • The anonymity is for anyone who is the target of an attempt or conspiracy to commit  a sex act
  • It applies (the order/ Amendment) to babies or adults with mental incapacity and anyone who can’t complain for themselves
  • The order applies to crime stories, reports of trials and civil cases

For Example, if a woman who was allegedly raped sues her rapist in a civil court you can’t name/identify her in a story even if she lost her case

For Example 2x, if an employee alleges sexual harassment, they have anonymity

JIGSAW IDENTIFICATION = A journalist might give out little bits of information, which when pieced together, allow someone to be identified. It’s like putting together a jigsaw.

  • Section One of the Act bans anyone publishing anything that can lead to someone identifying the alleged victim.
  • Naming a big school and saying the victim was a student is fine because it’s unlikely that they can be identified, but if you said it was a 14 year old female violinist then that can lead to them being identified
  • Be Careful how other media organisations cover the same story – e.g you say she’s a mum-of-three from East Hull, the Radio says she’s a nurse and the TV says she’s 31 – that becomes a 31 year old mother of three from East Hull – her friends might identify her and you’d all breach the act
  • Agree beforehand – In allegations of abuse in a family, media organisations should agree beforehand to either name the adult defendant (the person that did the abuse) and leave out the relationship to the child or not identify the adult defendant and describe the abuse.
  • The Editors Code of Practice bans identification of a child in sex cases (anyone below 18)

In 2006 the Daily Express was fined £2,700 and ordered to pay £10,000 compensation for breaching the Amendments act after they published photos of a servicewoman who claimed she had been sexually assaulted

In some cases the order can be lifted or changed to allow the media to report the case

  • Clause 11 of the Editors Code of Practice says the press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish anything that can lead to them being identified unless there’s adequate justification (the victim gives you permission) and they (journalists) are legally free to do so.
  • Clause 7 of the Editors Code of Practice says the press must not, even if they’re legally free to, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
  • There are only 4 ways you can identify a sex victim

  1. If they die
  2. If they sign a waiver to lift their anonymity
  3. If they lied and made a false allegation
  4. If they are tried for a crime and use the fact that they’re a victim of a sex offence
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