1.1 Contempt of court and other offences and torts involving the administration of justice
In 2016, the Commission published its Issues Paper on Contempt of Court and Other Offences and Torts Involving the Administration of Justice (LRC IP 10-2016) (4th Programme of Law Reform, Project 4).
The issues paper examines offences involving the administration of justice, including the law of contempt of court, and takes account of recent developments in this area since the publication of the Commission’s 1994 Report on Contempt of Court (LRC 47-1994), which recommended that the common law rules on criminal contempt and civil contempt should be replaced with statutory provisions.
The issues paper also looks at the legal problems that can arise for journalists if they are asked to reveal the sources of their published material given that refusal by a witness in a court case to answer a relevant question can constitute contempt of court. The European Court of Human Rights decision in 1996 in Goodwin v United Kingdom case that an order requiring the disclosure of a source could only be justified under the European Convention on Human Rights by “an overriding requirement in the public interest.” has been considered by the courts in Ireland on a number of occasions, but the law on disclosure of journalists sources remains unclear. The Issues Paper asks to what extent this could be clarified.
Finally, the issues paper also examines related offences and torts involving the administration of justice, including embracery (influencing or attempting to influence a juror), champerty (which involves a third party supporting litigation without just cause) and maintenance (where a third party supports litigation without just cause in return for a share of the proceeds). It asks whether it is appropriate to retain these crimes and torts and whether there is a case for their regulation.
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