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Contemptuous cuppa?

By Steven | November 18, 2011

Is it a contempt of court to discuss cuppagate now that it’s heading to court? John Banks and Steven Joyce seem to be suggesting that now that the issue is heading to court they are somehow precluded from commenting.

Wrong. It can be a contempt to cause prejudice to an upcoming trial – especially a criminal trial, and most especially a criminal jury trial – by supporting one side, criticising a witness, revealing previous convictions, evaluating the evidence, etc. But this doesn’t come near that. In particular, there’s nothing in the law of contempt to stop Banks and Key from talking about what they said in the conversation, or answering questions about what they think of Brash’s leadership or elderly voters.

If the politicians really want to be scrupulous about it, they probably shouldn’t talk about how they regard the conversation as private – since that’s the very issue for the court to determine. But even on that point, it’s mostly a legal question, and it’s for a judge alone – not a jury – to rule on (or not) in the declaration application.

Topics: Contempt of Court | 41 Comments »

41 Responses to “Contemptuous cuppa?”

  1. maheesha Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Would the risk of contempt be any less or nullified if the comments were said so far in advance of a jury trial (say 10 months) that any juror would be unlikely to remember what was said.

  2. Steven Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Um. My point is that there’s no risk of contempt here. But in general, the Court of Appeal has said that if a publication is 6-8 months or more before any trial, and is not otherwise particularly memorable, then it is likely that jurors will forget it and so no risk of prejudice is created.

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