Law Commission recommends contempt exemption for online archives

Report on contempt deals with jurors and modern media

The Law Commission has published a report making its recommendations for law reform relating to contempt by jurors and modern media aspects of contempt by publication. 5RB’s Godwin Busuttil and Christina Michalos contributed to the report.

The report makes three main recommendations:

1) that there be a new criminal offence for jurors conducting prohibited research, with a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine;

2) that there be an exemption from contempt liability for publishers relating to archived online material;

3) that there be a limited exception to the prohibition on jurors revealing their deliberations, in order to reveal miscarriages of justice, or to participate in approved and carefully controlled research.

The exemption for online archive material will be of particular interest to publishers. The recommendation is for the exemption to apply unless the publisher is put on formal notice by the Attorney General of:

a) the existence and location of the publication which first appeared before proceedings were active,

b) the fact that relevant proceedings have become active since that publication, and

c) the offending contents of the publication.

It is also recommended that the Attorney General send a second notice once proceedings are no longer active – this would be ensure that the restrictions on free speech that the removal of such archive material would entail would be in place for as short a time as possible.

Link: Law Commission Report page.