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Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams has today tabled the Law Commission’s report on proposals to modernise New Zealand’s contempt of court laws.

“Contempt law is intended to protect the integrity of the justice system and maintain public confidence in the administration of justice,” says Ms Adams.

“It helps to preserve a fair, impartial and effective justice system and safeguards a person’s right to a fair trial. However our contempt law is widely considered to be vague in scope and, as it was developed prior to the digital age and enactment of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, it has become out of date.”

Contempt rules are currently a mix of court decisions and various laws passed by Parliament. The Law Commission report recommends putting most contempt law into statute so it is easier to find and understand. It would mean offences and penalties for each kind of contempt would be clearly set out.   

The report also proposes giving courts the power to make take down orders for material on the internet and social media platforms that breach suppression orders.

Ms Adams says the Government will carefully consider the recommendations and respond in due course.

“The Law Commission’s proposals would affect a number of other laws and a range of people and organisations involved in the court system, including judges, lawyers, media, defendants, victims, witnesses and court visitors. We need to consider how these recommendations would work in practice so that any changes we make are effective and fair.”

The Law Commission’s report can be found here.

Notes:

Examples of different types of contempt include:

a juror doing their own research, which can jeopardise the outcome of a trial the media or a member of the public publishing suppressed details of a case a person disrupting the courtroom to interrupt trials or intimidate witnesses

The penalties for contempt are serious, and can mean time in prison or a heavy fine.

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