Essentially there are four main areas of contempt:
- Sub judice contempt i.e. publishing material which interferes with, or has the tendency to interfere with, a person’s right to a fair trial or generally with the course of justice
- publication of information which tends to interfere with the ongoing administration of justice
- improper conduct before the courts and
- a breach of a court order
In some circumstances, it is a criminal offence to print or otherwise publish material pertaining to matters that are pending before the courts. Although this applies to matters before all courts, it principally pertains to criminal proceedings and civil matters heard before a jury, as in the case of some defamation claims. The publication of anything that has a tendency to interfere with the court process or the course of justice is said to be sub judice. This applies particularly to an individual’s right to a fair trial.
Examples of sub judice contempt include publication prior to trial of:
- prior convictions of an accused person or witness
- the confession of an accused person prior to it being put into evidence
- the guilt or innocence of an accused person
- the alleged motive of an accused person
- the results of an independent investigation
- other prejudicial information
- the evidence of a witness
Certain legislative provisions also prohibit or restrict publication of matters before the courts such as the Family Law Act 1975. This prohibits the publication of any account of Family Court proceedings which identifies a party involved in such proceedings.