Relevant reviews and reforms

1.21 There have been many reviews of the law of contempt of court.[9] These include reviews in Australia,[10] the United Kingdom,[11] Ireland,[12] Canada[13] and New Zealand.[14]

1.22 As a result, there has been legislative change in the United Kingdom[15] and New Zealand.[16]

Review of the Open Courts Act

1.23 In 2017, the Hon. Frank Vincent AO QC conducted a review of the Victorian Open Courts Act, making 18 recommendations.[17]

1.24 The Victorian Government has stated that it supports in full or in principle 17 of the 18 recommendations. As at the time of writing this report, one recommendation remains under consideration.[18]

1.25 In May 2019, as a first stage of the government’s response, the Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) was enacted. The Act amends the Open Courts Act and other existing laws to reinforce the presumption in favour of open justice and the disclosure of information in Victorian courts.

1.26 In particular, the amending Act requires courts to have regard to the primacy of the principle of open justice and the free communication and disclosure of information when making suppression and closed court orders.[19] Relevantly to the Commission’s review, the Act amends the prohibition on identifying victims of sexual offences in the Judicial Proceedings Reports Act.[20] This amendment is discussed further in Chapter 12. This amendment will come into operation on 7 February 2020, unless proclaimed earlier.[21]

1.27 The terms of reference required the Commission to have regard to the recommendations of the Open Courts Act Review. Therefore, they are considered where relevant.

Other relevant reviews and reforms

1.28 A number of other reviews and reforms both in Australia and overseas are relevant and have implications for this review by the Commission. These include:

• the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety review currently underway into the use of judge-alone trials for criminal cases[22]

• the New South Wales Law Reform Commission review on the operation of legislative prohibitions on the disclosure or publication of New South Wales court and tribunal information, New South Wales court suppression and non-publication orders, and tribunal orders restricting disclosure of information, and access to information in New South Wales courts and tribunals, announced in February 2019[23]

• the Senate Select Inquiry on the Future of Public Interest Journalism report, tabled in the Australian Parliament in February 2018[24]

• the United Kingdom inquiry into online harms, which published a white paper in April 2019[25]

• the 2019 inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on the impact of digital platforms, including on the quality of news and journalism,[26] and the Australian Government’s response, which includes creation of a new platform-neutral regulatory framework[27]

• the current reference to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute on jurors’ use of social media and other internet platforms during criminal trials[28]

• the review of Model Defamation provisions currently being undertaken by the Council of Attorneys-General[29]

• amendments to the Sexual Offences Evidence and Procedure Act 1983 (NT), currently before the Northern Territory Parliament, to enable sexual offences victims to speak out in certain circumstances.[30]


  1. For a summary of these reviews and reforms see Victorian Law Reform Commission, Contempt of Court (Consultation Paper, May 2019) Appendix B

  2. Law Reform Commission of Western Australia, Report on Review of the Law of Contempt (Project No 93, June 2003); New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Contempt by Publication (Report No 100, June 2003); The Law Reform Commission, Contempt (Final Report No 35, December 1987).

  3. Law Commission (England and Wales), Contempt of Court (2): Court Reporting (Report No 344, March 2014); Law Commission (England and Wales), Contempt of Court (1): Juror Misconduct and Internet Publications (Report No 340, 2013); Law Commission (England and Wales), Contempt of Court (Consultation Paper No 209, 2012); Committee on Contempt of Court (UK), Report of the Committee on Contempt of Court (Cmnd 5794, December 1974).

  4. The Law Reform Commission Ireland, Report on Contempt of Court (Report No 46, September 1994); see also Law Reform Commission Ireland, Contempt of Court and Other Offences and Torts Involving the Administration of Justice (Issues Paper No 10, 2016).

  5. Law Reform Commission of Canada, Contempt of Court (Report No 17, 1982).

  6. Law Commission (New Zealand), Reforming the Law of Contempt of Court: A Modern Statute (Report No 140, May 2017).

  7. Contempt of Court Act 1981 (UK); Crime and Courts Act 2013 (UK) s 33.

  8. Contempt of Court Act 2019 (NZ).

  9. Frank Vincent, Open Courts Act Review (Report, September 2017) 9–11 <https://engage.vic.gov.au/open-courts-act-review>.

  10. Victorian Government, Open Courts Act Review Table of Recommendations (March 2018) <https://engage.vic.gov.au/open-courts-act-review>.

  11. Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) s 12, substituting s 28.

  12. Ibid s 15.

  13. Ibid s 2.

  14. Farrah Tomazin and Sumeyya Ilanbey, ‘Andrews Government Considers “Judge-Only” Trials for Criminal Cases’, The Age (online, 13 December 2018) <www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/andrews-government-considers-judge-only-trials-for-criminal-cases-20181213-p50m5u.html>.

  15. Department of Justice (NSW), ‘Open Justice Review’, Justice—Law Reform Commission (Web Page, 3 June 2019) <https://www.lawreform.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/lrc/lrc_current_projects/Courtinformation/Project_update.aspx>.

  16. Public Interest Journalism Committee, Parliament of Australia, Future of Public Interest Journalism (Final Report, February 2018).

  17. Her Majesty’s Government (UK), Online Harms White Paper (April 2019) <https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper>.

  18. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Digital Platforms Inquiry (Final Report, June 2019).

  19. Treasury (Cth), Regulating in the Digital Age: Government Response and Implementation Roadmap for the Digital Platforms Inquiry (Report, 12 December 2019) <https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2019-41708>.

  20. Tasmania Law Reform Institute, Jurors, Social Media and the Right of an Accused to a Fair Trial (Issues Paper No 30, August 2019).

  21. A Discussion Paper was released for comment in February 2019 and submissions closed on 30 April 2019: ‘Review of Model Defamation Provisions’, Department of Communities and Justice (NSW) (Web Page, 3 February 2020) <https://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/defamationreview>. Draft amendments to the Model Defamation Provisions together with a background paper were released for feedback in November 2019: Australasian Parliamentary Counsel’s Committee, Council of Attorneys-General, Model Defamation Amendment Provisions (Report Draft d15, November 2019) <https://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/justicepolicy/Documents/review-model-defamation-provisions/consultation-draft-of-mdaps.pdf>. Council of Attorneys-General, Department of Communities and Justice (NSW),

    Model Defamation Amendment Provisions 2020 (Consultation Draft) (Background Paper, December 2019) <https://www.justice.nsw.gov.au/justicepolicy/Documents/review-model-defamation-provisions/defamation-final-background-paper.pdf>. Submissions are due by

    24 January 2020.

  22. Sexual Offences (Evidence and Procedure) Amendment Bill 2019 (NT). At the time of writing the Bill was before the legislative scrutiny committee which will report back to Parliament in March 2020. See also Lauren Roberts, ‘Northern Territory Sexual Assault Survivors Will Be Able to Share Their Stories’, ABC News (online, November 2019) <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-28/northern-territory-sexual-assault-survivors-speak-out/11745112>.

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