Contempt of Court: Juror Misconduct and Internet Publications

Main project: Contempt of Court

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

This project is complete. Our recommendation for a new criminal offence for jurors conducting prohibited research was implemented by section 71 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015

We published a report explaining and setting out our recommendations in this area on 9 December 2013.

In our report we recommended the creation of a new criminal offence for jurors conducting prohibited research. This recommendation was implemented by section 71 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (inserting a new section 20A into the Juries Act 1974). This change in the law will increase clarity and consistency for jurors on the boundaries of prohibited conduct, increase the legitimacy of the offence, which will now emanate from Parliament rather than the courts and introduce the usual criminal procedural and sentencing regime in place of the current civil process in the Divisional Court.

We also recommended that Parliament:

  1. Create an exemption of contempt liability for publishers relating to archived online material.  Under the present law, a publisher is liable for prejudicial material which remains online, even when it was posted entirely legitimately before legal proceedings became active.  This places an onerous burden on the media to monitor online archives to check whether they relate to newly active legal proceedings.  Our recommendation would lift that burden by providing an exemption from liability until and unless the Attorney General specifically notified a publisher of the existence of online prejudicial material.
  2. Create a limited exception to the prohibition on jurors revealing their deliberations.  At present, any disclosure of the content of jury deliberations is completely prohibited.  Our recommendation would create a limited exception to that prohibition, in order to allow jurors to reveal miscarriages of justice to the competent authorities, or to participate in carefully controlled research into how juries operate.
Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law


Professor David Ormerod QC