Open justice is a hallmark of the rule of law.
It is an essential component of the criminal justice system that the administration of justice must be done in public.
The public and media have the right to attend almost all court hearings and the media is able to report proceedings fully and contemporaneuosly.
The public has the right to know what takes place in the criminal courts and the media in court acts as the eyes and ears of the public
Only in exceptional circumstances will a judge impose restrictions on reporting a case.
Under section 4(2)of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, the court may order the postponement of publication or broadcast of a case.
The judge has to be satisfied that it is necessary to do so to avoid a sustantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those or other proceedings.
Circumstances where the power can be used includes where two or more trials are due to take place which are closely connected.
Lawyers may apply for an order to be made if they believe publication of reports of the first trial could cause substantial risk of prejudice to subsequent trials.
If the judge is satisfied that the order is necessary. he or she must balance the competing public interests between protecting the administration of justice and ensuring open justice.
Judges' guidlines state that using a section 4 order should only be used as a last resort.
To be convicted for contempt of court, an offender's behaviour must go beyond simply failing to comply with a court order.
Criminal contempt must involve a serious interference with the administration of justice.
The general description of the nature of criminal contempt is “conduct that denotes wilful defiance of, or disrespect towards the court, or that wilfully challenges or affronts the authority of the court or the supremacy of the law itself”.
It is behaviour which so threatens the administration of justice that it requires punishment from a public point of view.
The main types of criminal contempt are failing to answer questions in court, physically interfering with a trial, threatening witnesses and conduct obstructing or calculated to prejudice the due administration of justice.
It can arise before, during or after criminal proceedings at either the Crown Court or the magistrates' court, or in the course of any civil proceedings.