Attorney-General v Times Newspapers Ltd: HL 1991

Injunctions had been granted to preserve the status quo in proceedings brought to prevent the publication of the book ‘Spycatcher’. The defendants published extracts, and now appealed a finding that they had acted in contempt.
Held: The contempt was established. The publication had the effect of prejudicing the purpose of the trial. The actus reus of interfering with the administration of justice had been complete, and the necessary elements of contempt were established. It was an independent contempt of court to do an act which deliberately interferes with the course of justice by frustrating the purpose for which the order was made.
Lord Oliver of Aylmerton said: ‘Once the conclusion is reached that the fact that the alleged contemnor is not party to or personally bound by the court’s order then, given the intention on his part to interfere with or obstruct the course of justice, the sole remaining question is whether what he has done has that effect in the particular circumstances of the case.’


Lord Oliver of Aylmerton


[1992] 1 AC 191, [1991] CLY 2809, [1991] 2 WLR 994


England and Wales


CitedAttorney-General v Leveller Magazine Ltd HL 1-Feb-1979
The appellants were magazines and journalists who published, after committal proceedings, the name of a witness, a member of the security services, who had been referred to as Colonel B during the hearing. An order had been made for his name not to . .

Cited by:

CitedBloomsbury Publishing Group Ltd and J K Rowling v News Group Newspapers Ltd and others ChD 23-May-2003
The publishers had gone to great lengths to keep advance copies of a forthcoming book in the Harry Potter series secret. They became aware that some had been stolen from the printers and sought injunctions against the defendants and another unnamed . .
CitedHM Customs and Excise v Barclays Bank Plc HL 21-Jun-2006
The claimant had served an asset freezing order on the bank in respect of one of its customers. The bank paid out on a cheque inadvertently as to the order. The Commissioners claimed against the bank in negligence. The bank denied any duty of care. . .
CitedJockey Club v Buffham QBD 13-Sep-2002
A court had issued a final order with an injunction against the respondent against revealing matters becoming known to him during his employment by the claimant. The BBC sought a variation to allow it to broadcast material based upon that documents . .
CitedSteen v Her Majesty’s Attorney General; Attorney-General v Punch Ltd and Another CA 23-Mar-2001
The appellant appealed against a finding of contempt of court at common law as regards a report in Punch published when he had been its editor.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The A-G had failed to establish the mens rea of contempt in the . .
CitedJones, Re (Alleged Contempt of Court) FD 21-Aug-2013
The Solicitor General sought the committal of the respondent for alleged contempt of court. There had been repeated litigation between the respondent and her former husband as to whether the children should live in Spain with the father or in Wales . .
CitedRegina v O’Brien SC 2-Apr-2014
The court considered how to apply the rule that an extradition may only be for trial on matters committed before the extradition if they have been the basis of the request to a defendant’s commission of contempt of court after conviction. After . .
CitedHM Attorney General v Davey Admn 29-Jul-2013
The Attorney general sought the committal of the defendants for contempt of court alleging their misbehaviour as jurors. One had posted to a facebook account about the trial and lied about it to the judge. The second, in a different trial, had . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court, Media, Litigation Practice

Updated: 12 May 2022; Ref: scu.183378