Contempt of Court: Scandalising the Court

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

We produced our final report on Scandalising the Court on 19 December 2012, recommending the abolition of the offence. Our recommendation was implemented in the Crime and Courts Act 2013

This historic form of contempt covers conduct likely to undermine the administration of justice or public confidence in courts and judges.

In August 2012 we published a consultation paper on scandalising the court. This work was brought forward to feed into the Government’s consideration of the proposal in the Crime and Courts Bill to abolish the offence. After our consultation, we published a summary of consultees’ responses in November 2012.

Crime and Courts Act 2013

On 4 December 2012 we published a summary of our conclusions ahead of the publication of our report. We took this unusual step because a proposal for the abolition of scandalising the court was due to be debated as an amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill. We did this so that the results of our independent review of the law could feed into this debate.

On 10 December 2012 the House of Lords debated, and accepted, the abolition of scandalising the court as an amendment to the Bill. All the Lords who spoke were in favour of abolition. The role played by our consultation and provisional proposals in informing the debate was widely acknowledged, with Lord Carswell commending our “admirable consultation paper, which contains a full and helpful discussion of the issues, the principles and the possible solutions”.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Criminal law


Professor David Ormerod QC