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Contempt of Court: An Overview

Author: Dr. Jayalakshmi Menon, Kerala, India

Abstract Contempt of court laws exists to ensure people get fair trials. The idea is that juries must not be influenced by anything but the evidence they hear in court. The rules apply to everyone from journalists to people posting comments on social media and even jurors. If someone interferes with a trial, the defendants can walk free and a new trial might have to be held. The maximum sentence for contempt of court is two years in prison, but it can also be punished with an unlimited fine. The law is set out in the 1981 Contempt of Court Act. Contempt includes publishing anything that creates a substantial risk of seriously prejudicing "active" criminal proceedings. Proceedings become "active" when a suspect is arrested. Someone could also be in contempt by actions including taking photographs or film, recording what is said in court or talking to a jury member about a case.

Keywords: Contempt of court, Criminal Contempt, Civil Contempt.

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