The Law Commission today released Contempt in Modern New Zealand (IP36, 2014), its Issues Paper on reforming the common law of contempt. The Issues Paper proposes that judge-made laws of contempt of court be replaced by a more limited and clearer set of legislative provisions that better reconcile protecting the integrity of the justice system and fair trial rights with the importance of freedom of speech.
The President of the Commission, Sir Grant Hammond, said that the purpose of the law of contempt of court is to protect the integrity of the justice system and a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
“The right to trial by jury for serious offences is a cornerstone of the criminal justice system in New Zealand and something we all have an interest in protecting. However, the common law may no longer be the best mechanism for protecting that right.”
Sir Grant says that some of the outdated concepts and language at play in the law of contempt are no longer relevant today. The law predates the Internet Age and the enactment of New Zealand’s Bill of Rights, and needs to be updated to address these developments.