Contempt quiz

  1. The Attorney General has recently decreed that bona fide journalists may tweet and use laptops and recording devices while covering court cases. True or false? (1 mark)

2. A section 4(2) order bans reporting on all or part of a trial until the risk of prejudice has passed. How long does a section 11 anonymity order last? (1 mark)

3. During a Crown court trial, how should you report discussions of legal points that take place in the absence of the jury? (1 mark)

4. To be fully protected under both the 2013 Defamation Act and the 1981 Contempt of Court Act, a report of a court case must be con_____________. Complete the word. (1 mark)

5. Strict liability contempt includes being rude to a judge. True or false? (1 mark)

6. Strict liability contempt arises when a journalist’s work creates a s__________ risk of s__________ prejudice to an a______ court case. Supply the three missing words in the correct order (3 marks)

7. Two Articles of the European Human Rights Act must be weighed against each other in deciding whether to impose reporting restrictions under the 1981 Contempt of Court Act. They are:

Article __: the right to a ____________________; and
Article __: the right to _________________________.

Supply the missing words and numbers in the correct order (5 marks)

8a. What additional information can a reporter safely bring into reporting of an ongoing trial besides what is disclosed in court? (1 mark)

8b. In a few words, explain the principle behind 8a (1 mark)

9. Why is there a greater risk of contempt of court in a civil case dealt with by a jury than in a case heard only by a judge? (1 mark)

10. Who decides whether a media organisation should be prosecuted for contempt? (1 mark)

11. When does a criminal case become active? Give two examples (2 marks)

12. At the end of a trial, the jury delivers its verdict.

a) If the defendant is cleared on all charges, is the case still active?
b) the defendant is found guilty: when does the case cease to be active?
c) newspapers often run full coverage of a trial when guilty verdicts are returned: is this safe? Briefly give your reasoning.

(total 5 marks)

13. Does a case cease to be active if…

a) an arrested person is released on bail
b) the defendant is declared unfit to plead
c) the defendant is found guilty
d) after six months a warrant has not resulted in an arrest
e) a decision has been made for charges to “lie on file”

(total 5 marks)

14a. Outside court at the end of a guilty verdict, the defendant protests his innocence. If he formally appeals, will the case become active again? (1 mark)

14b. The defendant tells you he is lodging an appeal and so you cannot run a full report of his trial. Is he correct? (1 mark)

15. After a trial has ended, the case can become active again if a formal appeal is lodged, creating a risk of prejudice. Appeals are heard by judges without a jury. In the 50 years between 1960 and 2010, how many publications were prosecuted for contempt relating to appeal hearings in England and Wales? Select one answer:

a) none
b) one
c) eight
d) more than eight

16. A civil (non-criminal) case ceases to be active if it is settled. What does this mean? (1 mark)




xx. You are the editor of a newspaper and you are trying to decide whether to run an interview with someone you suspect may be awaiting trial, and rely on the defence of innocent publication. You know it is risky but it is a sensational story and your newspaper can afford to pay a large fine.

a. Can you rely on that defence? Explain your answer (3 marks)
b. Have you weighed the consequences correctly? Explain your answer (2 marks)
c. The story exposes political wrongdoing – a matter of clear public interest. Is this a defence? (1 mark)
d. A more cautious colleague suggests you could simply run a story about the important issues raised in the case, without reference to the interviewee. Might this work? Explain in a few words (3 marks)
e. Your lawyer says the story would be prejudicial, but it would not be serious prejudice and there’s only a small chance a jury will even see the story. If the lawyer’s judgement is correct, is the paper in contempt? (1 mark)

(total 10 marks)

You are working on the late shift at BBC Earlsdon, writing copy for the 6am  news bulletin. Police say a man is helping them with their enquiries in a murder investigation. The Earlsdon Telegraph website names him as Marcos Oldman, a crotchety eccentric who is known to have resented the murder victim’s superior knowledge of media law. The key facts in the case – the time and location of the discovery, the victim’s identity, and the cause of death – have been established beyond doubt, and widely reported. What can you safely include in your overnight story, given that it will not be used until six am? Identify at least three particular areas of uncertainty. (10 marks)

Answers and scores:

Is it Mr Oldman? Cannot rely on the Telegraph. Best to say “a man” (2)
Reporting Mr Oldman’s connection with the victim would be clear prejudice (2)
Is he helping voluntarily or has he been arrested – meaning the case is active? (2)
Is there a danger of suggesting he is the suspect? (1)
Might the case become active by 6am? (2)
Problem: probably can’t contact the police before 6am. (1)
Safe to give basic details of the murder case. (1)

Maximum ten marks







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