What is contempt of court?
Contempt of court is interfering with justice to prejudice a person getting a fair trial.
When are you at risk of contempt?
- When a crime is ‘active’ and;
- You write something which creates a ‘substantial risk of serious prejudice’.
When does a case stop being active?
- When an arrested person is released without charge;
- 12 months after a warrant has been issued, if no arrest has been made:
- The case is thrown out of court;
- Someone is sentenced or acquitted.
When writing a story on a case that is still active, we have to be careful in what we say. We cant give descriptions or publish pictures if identity is an issue, we also must take care with background material that states/implies the person is of bad character (previous convictions, comments from neighbours), and not use words like offender or thug – they all imply guilt.
Both of these papers were fined for interfering with justice to prejudice a man who is a suspect of a murder case. The two papers have been biased towards finding the man guilty. They use words like ‘strange’ and the Daily Mirror brought up other cases that have no relation to him like ‘friend in jail for paedophilia crime’, implying that he has something to do with it. The Daily Mirror has been fined £50,000 and the Sun £18,000.