PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES... Contempt of court
The Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill was presented in Parliament for the first reading by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah yesterday. TAN TAM MEI (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports
Why do we need the law of contempt?
1 Court orders must be effectively enforced so that individuals can receive full protection of the law.
2 Families suffer when maintenance orders and other court orders are breached.
3 Individuals have the right to a fair trial. Effective contempt laws will protect them from being subject to trial by media.
4 To protect Courts from allegations of bias. Preserving high levels of trust in Singapore Courts ensures that Singaporeans remain confident of access to fair and effective justice.
What is new about the Bill?
1 The Bill will set out the law of contempt of court in statutory form, which brings clarity and certainty to what constitutes contempt, said the Ministry of Law.
Existing law of contempt is contained in common law, which is law based on judgments made in previous cases, said Singapore Management University Law Professor Jack Tsen-Ta Lee.
"Other offences like murder or theft are in the statutes, but the current law of contempt is unusual in that it's not (in the statutes)," he said.
"Clearly, (the Government) feels that putting it down in statute will make it clearer, and everyone can see what the maximum penalties will be."
Mr Sui Yi Siong, a lawyer at Harry Elias Partnership, said that a statute that spells out the sort of speech that is permissible would be helpful to all by stating clearly what can amount to a contempt of court offence.
2 The Bill puts in place a clear framework for punishment of contempt:
- High Court or Court of Appeal: A fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years.
- Other Courts: A fine of up to $20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
Q&A on law of contempt
SOME EXAMPLES OF WHEN I AM IN CONTEMPT OF COURT ARE:
1 I disobey court orders, such as refusing to pay a sum of money ordered by the court, or causing or abetting breach of court orders.
2 I publish material that interferes with or prejudices pending court proceedings, including prejudging issues in pending proceedings.
3 I make allegations of bias or impropriety against Singapore judges, or impugn the integrity of the courts.
SOME EXAMPLES OF WHEN I AM NOT IN CONTEMPT OF COURT:
1 I make fair criticism, which is a statement that might be disparaging against a court or judge, but is based on fact and is made in temperate terms, meaning no insults or swear words, said Professor Lee.
2 I report court proceedings fairly and accurately.
3 I make a report to the Chief Justice, the police, a law enforcement agency or other public authority regarding a judge's alleged misconduct or corruption.
A survey of 1,000 Singaporeans from June to July 2016 showed:
believe there is a need for effective enforcement of court orders
are in favour of keeping outside influence from affecting on-going court proceedings.
Clearly (the Government) feels that putting (the law of contempt) down in statute will make it clearer, and everyone can see what the maximum penalties will be.
- Singapore Management University Law Professor Jack Tsen-Ta Lee