Wednesday, 18 November 2015

To publish or not to publish - a refresher on sub judice contempt

Recently there has been a lot of inquiries in relation to what can be published about upcoming court matters.

On occasion, it is permissible to publish material about upcoming court cases, but commonly, publishing such material may result in the publisher committing the common law offence of sub-judice contempt.

What is sub judice contempt?

Sub judice contempt is the common law offence of publishing material which has a tendency to interfere with the administration of justice while proceedings are sub judice; that is, ‘under a judge’.

The rationale for the offence is to avoid the possibility of  a ‘trial by media’ by prohibiting the publication of material which might either prejudice issues at stake in criminal proceedings, or which might influence or place pressure on persons involved in the proceedings, including jurors, witnesses or potential witnesses.

In order to prove a charge of sub judice contempt, it must be proven to the criminal standard that:
a) material was published;
b) the publication of that material happened while the proceedings were sub judice; and
c) the publication has the tendency to interfere with the administration of justice in the proceedings that are before the judge.
For more details about this common law offence and how to avoid it, read on here.

If you are a Victorian government department or agency and need to know more about sub judice contempt you can contact:

Louise Jarrett
Managing Principal Solicitor
louise.jarrett@vgso.vic.gov.au
(03) 9247 6798

Michael Stagg
Senior Solicitor
michael.stagg@vgso.vic.gov.au 
(03) 9247 6496

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