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Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is an offence under section 24 of the Local Court Act 2007 and section 199 of the District Court Act 1973, which carries a maximum penalty of 28 days in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You engaged in conduct with the tendency to interfere with or undermine the authority, performance or dignity of the court or those who participate in court proceedings, and
  2. Your conduct was intentional.

The following conduct has been found to amount to contempt:

  1. Protracted swearing and yelling at a magistrate or judge
  2. Filming witnesses in an attempt to intimidate them
  3. A course of evading questions in court or refusing to answer them
  4. Refusing to take an oath or affirmation in court
  5. Refusing to leave the courtroom after being directed to do so, and
  6. Disobeying court orders such as subpoenas.

However, the courts have made clear that all options should be exhausted before a contempt charge is brought.

These options include:

  1. Giving a warning
  2. Directing you to leave the courtroom
  3. Providing you with the opportunity to seek legal advice, and
  4. Referring the matter to the Attorney General for consideration as to whether a charge of disrespectful behaviour in court is more appropriate.

The courts have also found that magistrates and judges should be able to resist the sting of insults directed at them and that rudeness and extreme discourtesy by lawyers does not amount to contempt.

Duress is a defence to the charge.

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