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February 7, 2017

Committal Proceedings and Contempt of Court

10/12 Interference with the Administration of Justice

This e-bulletin is part of a series covering contempt of court in all its forms and the series is designed to be relevant to all practice areas. Richard Shepherd has been commissioned by Lexis Nexis to draft their Professional Practice Notes on the subject. Albion Chambers is delighted that we have been granted permission by Lexis Nexis to share these guides with our instructing solicitors and professional clients before they have been published online. The next e-bulletins in the series will be published every Tuesday morning.


This e-bulletin covers the circumstances in which committal proceedings can be brought where an interference with the administration of justice is alleged. A separate e-bulletin “Committal Proceedings – In the Face of the Court” should also be consulted.

This e-bulletin should be read in conjunction with the “Nuts and Bolts” e-bulletin published previously, it gives a general overview of these types of proceedings.

Permission is required to bring committal proceedings where interference with the administration of justice is alleged. CPR 81.13 helpfully sets out the appropriate venues to hear the permission hearing. Some of the factors that will be considered in granting and refusing that permissions are dealt with in the “Nuts and Bolts” e-bulletin. 

CPR 81.14(5) stipulates that if the respondent intends to appear at the permission hearing they must:

  • Given seven days’ notice in writing of the fact to the court and the other party;

  • Provide a written summary of the submissions they intend to make.

Examples of Interfering with Administration of Justice

The ways in which an individual can be held in contempt for interfering with the administration of justice are varied. The following is a non-exhaustive list of convenient examples where such allegations have been made:

  • Where meta data was falsified on photographs – Stanmore Quality Surfacing Ltd v Kartel (2016) 21 July 2016, QBD

  • Taking photographs in court and publishing them on Facebook – Solicitor General v Cox and others [2016] EWHC 1241 (QB)

  • Jurors undertaking internet research – Attorney General v Davey and others [2013] EWHC 2317 (Admin)

What must (and does not need) be proved

A number of arguments have been pursued in the courts that can generically be described as “I didn’t mean to”, meaning, the contemnor didn’t intend to interfere with the due administration of justice. Such arguments have been roundly rejected, see Solicitor General v Cox & others [2016] EWHC 1241 (QB).

The mens rea of this type of committal is not the specific intent to interfere with justice, all that is needed is an intent to do the act itself. No doubt however, an intent to interfere with the administration of justice will be an aggravating feature on sentencing.

Richard Shepherd

Next week’s e-bulletin will examine “Writs of Sequestration”.