VLRC seeks input on the review of contempt of court laws

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has released a consultation paper for its review of the laws of contempt of court and is seeking submissions by 28 June.

The Commission has been asked to review all types of contempt of court, including:
• contempt in the face of the court
• sub judice contempt
• contempt by publication
• juror contempt
• contempt by scandalising the court.

The Commission is considering whether the common law of contempt and the various Acts should be replaced by new legislation.

Contempt of court is an old legal concept, and is a mixture of decisions made over centuries by judges in court (known as the common law) and various Acts of Parliament. The reform of contempt laws has been examined in Australia, however there has never been a comprehensive review of the laws of contempt in Victoria.

The Commission has also been asked to examine the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958. This Act contains some rules about what may be published about legal proceedings. Like Victoria’s contempt laws, the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act 1958 has not been comprehensively reviewed before.

Finally, this review will examine the legal framework for the enforcement of prohibitions or restrictions on the publication of information, including penalties, offences and defences.

The Commission will take into consideration the development of the internet and new media, and research on juror decision-making. It will have regard to the recommendations of the Open Courts Act Review, and recent changes to the law involving suppression orders.

The consultation paper is online at lawreform.vic.gov.au.

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