CONTEMPT OF COURT AND AVOIDANCE OF POTENTIAL CONTEMPT
Contempt of Court I start this topic “Contempt of Court” with a quote attributed to Lord Hardwicke in the St James’ Evening Post case (reported in 2 Atkins) who said in 1742 that “there cannot be anything of greater consequence than to keep the streams of justice clear and pure, that parties may proceed with safety both to themselves and their characters”.
This in effect means that there must be means by which acts or omissions made by any person to either frustrate or undermine the administration of justice will be sanctioned.
To this quote, the legendary Lord Denning commented that …“There is not one stream of justice. There are many streams. Whatever obstructs their courses or muddles the waters of any of those streams is punishable under the single cognomen “Contempt of Court”. It has its peculiar features. It is a criminal offence but it is not tied on indictment with a jury. It is tried summarily by a judge alone, who may be the very judge who has been injured by the contempt.”
In acknowledgement of the importance of the concept, Francis Mann (The Law Quarterly Review @ page 348) wrote that “Contempt of Court is undoubtedly one of the great contributions the common law has made to the civilised behaviour of a large part of the world beyond the continent of Europe where the institution is unknown.”