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Law of Contempt

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th February 2014.

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Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Conservative, Stockton South 11:30 am, 11th February 2014

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on reform of the law of contempt.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve The Attorney-General

I met the Justice Secretary recently to discuss proposals for reforming the law of contempt. The proposals will implement recommendations that were made by the Law Commission and have been included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. I strongly support the reforms, which include the creation of criminal offences for jury misconduct. If enacted, the legislation will reform the contempt law that is applicable to publication contempt, with the aim of providing greater clarity and certainty for the media and the courts about when material that is published online should be removed when proceedings are active.

Photo of James Wharton James Wharton Conservative, Stockton South

What success has my right hon. and learned Friend had in prosecuting jurors who ignore judges’ pre-trial advice, particularly with regard to the unlawful use of social media?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve The Attorney-General

Since coming to office, the Solicitor-General, his predecessor, my hon. and learned Friend Sir Edward Garnier, and I have successfully instituted proceedings against five jurors. Four of those cases involved the misuse of the internet, including using the internet to conduct research. In two of those cases, social media were used to commit the contempt. As a result of those proceedings, judicial directions to jurors have been revised and strengthened. The purpose of those prosecutions is to send out a clear message about the unacceptability of such behaviour and, thereby, to ensure that further prosecutions are not necessary. By turning it into a straightforward criminal offence, we will make quite clear the gravity of the matter, while also providing statutory defences.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

We will hear very shortly from the man in the conker-coloured suit. I look forward to that, as does the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear with me for a moment.