Producers Handbook

Contempt and Reporting Legal Proceedings

Key Points

What is contempt?

The law of contempt bans the media from broadcasting comments or information that would create a substantial risk of serious prejudice to active UK legal proceedings, in particular criminal proceedings heard before juries. It is also possible to commit contempt by intentionally seeking to prejudice legal proceedings even where they are not active.



Contempt of court is a criminal offence and carries serious penalties: an unlimited fine and/or up to two years imprisonment of the relevant personnel responsible for the broadcast, normally the editor. Other financial penalties may also be imposed.



Many activities are capable of amounting to a contempt, including: obtaining or publishing details of jury deliberations; breaching reporting restrictions or a court order; making payments to witnesses; filming or recording inside court buildings or their precincts without permission; publishing information obtained from confidential court documents in both civil and criminal proceedings, publishing details of previous convictions.


Reporting legal proceedings

The laws that restrict the reporting of legal proceedings are numerous and varied. Many relate to the identification of children and the victims of sexual offences. To breach most reporting restrictions is to commit a criminal offence

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