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10 August 2012
In a consultation opening today, the Law Commission is asking whether the offence of scandalising the court is still necessary or should be consigned to history.
Scandalising the court, also known as scandalising judges or scandalising the judiciary, is a form of contempt of court. You might commit the offence if you do or publish anything that ridicules the judiciary to such an extent that it is likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. This might include, for example, being extremely offensive towards a member of the judiciary or suggesting that they are corrupt. The offence is not concerned with conduct which risks prejudicing particular proceedings, but only with conduct that is likely to affect the administration of justice generally.
The offence has not been successfully prosecuted in England and Wales since 1931, and calls are being made for it to be reviewed on a number of grounds:
The aim of the Commission’s consultation is to ask whether scandalising the court is still necessary in modern society in England and Wales. The Commission’s provisional view is that it should be abolished and it seeks views on that proposal and whether gaps might be left in the law. It also seeks views on whether, in the alternative, the law should it be replaced – and if so, with what kind of offence.
The consultation paper, Contempt of Court: Scandalising the Court, is available on the Commission’s website: www.lawcom.gov.uk. The consultation closes on 5 October 2012.