in Re Lonrho Plc: HL 1989

A jury trial procedure for contempt would never be appropriate: ‘If the trial is to be by jury, the possibility of prejudice by advance publicity directed to an issue which the jury will have to decide is obvious. The possibility that a professional judge will be influenced by anything he has read about the issues in a case which he has to try is very much more remote. He will not consciously allow himself to take account of anything other than the evidence and arguments presented to him in court.’
Lord Bridge of Harwich discussed the 1981 Act: ‘the Act of 1981, on any point on which any doubt arises as to its construction, may be presumed to have been intended to avoid future conflict between the law of contempt of court in the United Kingdom and the obligations of the United Kingdom under the European Convention . . The only safe course, we think, is to apply the test imposed by the statutory language according to its ordinary meaning, without any preconception derived from Attorney General v Times Newspapers Ltd [1974] AC 273 as to what kind of publication is likely to impede or prejudice the course of justice. The question whether a particular publication, in relation to particular legal proceedings which are active, creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in those proceedings will be seriously impeded or prejudiced is ultimately one of fact. Whether the course of justice in particular proceedings will be impeded or prejudiced by a publication must depend primarily on whether the publication will bring influence to bear which is likely to divert the proceedings in some way from the course which they would otherwise have followed. The influence may affect the conduct of witnesses, the parties or the court. Before proceedings have come to trial and before the facts have been found, it is easy to see how critical public discussion of the issues and criticism of the conduct of the parties, particularly if a party is held up to public obloquy, may impede or prejudice the course of the proceedings by influencing the conduct of witnesses or parties in relation to the proceedings. If the trial is to be by jury, the possibility of prejudice by advance publicity directed to an issue which the jury will have to decide is obvious.’


Lord Bridge of Harwich


[1990] 2 AC 154, [1989] 3 WLR 535, [1989] 2 All ER 1100


Contempt of Court Act 1981


England and Wales


CitedAttorney-General v Times Newspapers Ltd HL 1973
The House considered the bringing of contempt proceedings by the Attorney General.
Held: The Attorney General must prove to the criminal standard of proof that the respondent had committed an act or omission calculated to interfere with or . .

Cited by:

CitedAttorney General v Michael Ronald Unger; Manchester Evening News Limited and Associated Newspapers Limited Admn 3-Jul-1997
Complaint was made that the defendant newspapers had caused a serious prejudice to a trial by articles published before the trial of the defendant in criminal proceedings. The defendant pleaded guilty to theft at the magistrates’ court after she had . .
CitedHM Attorney General v MGN Ltd and Another Admn 29-Jul-2011
The police arrested a man on suspicion of the murder of a young woman. He was later released and exonerated, and a second man arrested and later convicted. Whilst the first was in custody the two defendant newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Sun . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court

Updated: 05 May 2022; Ref: scu.272779