The Civil Procedure Rules could not change the substantive law. It therefore remained necessary for it to be shown that in addition to knowing that what was said was false, the party had to have known that what was being said was likely to interfere with the course of justice. No new category of contempt could be introduced with respect to statements of truth made without being verified.
The policing of statements of truth had to be subject to the same over-riding objectives as applied to other part of the litigation process, and proceedings for contempt should only be brought with the permission of the court or the Attorney-General. Proceedings for contempt of court are public law proceedings and therefore when considering whether to give permission for proceedings to be taken in any particular case the court must have regard to the public interest alone. Though private interests may be affected, because the proceedings are of a public nature ‘[t]he court from which permission is sought will be concerned to see that the case is one in which the public interest requires the committal proceedings to be brought.’
The Vice-Chancellor said: ‘Proceedings for contempt are not private law proceedings. They are public law proceedings. They may in appropriate circumstances be brought by private individuals. They can always be brought by the Attorney General, but private individuals may be able to bring them. An injunction granted in an action between two private individuals restraining one from doing some act which is to the prejudice of the interests of the other can be enforced by committal proceedings brought by the party for whose benefit the injunction was granted. Committal proceedings of that character can be brought without permission. But under CPR 32.14 a private individual can only bring committal proceedings with the permission of the court. The reason for that is the nature of the proceedings. These are not proceedings where the alleged contempt consists of the breach of an order obtained by an individual in protection or furtherance of his own private rights. It is a case of an allegation of public wrong, not private wrong. Interference with the course of justice is plainly a public wrong and it is right therefore that there should be a public control over the launching of proceedings for this species of contempt. The Attorney General has a public function which needs no further explanation. The court from which permission is sought will be concerned to see that the case is one in which the public interest requires the committal proceedings to be brought. I repeat that these are not proceedings brought for the furtherance of private interests. They are brought in the public interest and are in some respects like criminal proceedings. Nonetheless they are civil proceedings and they are civil proceedings to which the overriding objective set out in CPR 1 is therefore applicable. The overriding objective enjoins the court to deal with cases justly, ensuring so far as practicable that the parties are on an equal footing, that expense is saved and that the case is dealt with in ways which are proportionate to the money involved, to the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues and the financial position of each party. These are general imperatives which are as relevant, in my opinion, to an application for permission under CPR 32.14 as to any other form of civil proceedings.’
Sir Richard Scott VC
Times 17-Feb-2000, 1999 WL 1048312,  FSR 393,  EWHC 843 (Ch),  CP Rep 39
England and Wales
Cited – Kirk v Walton QBD 24-Jul-2008
The defendant sought leave to bring proceedings for contempt of court against the claimant saying that she had had no honest belief in the matters deposed in her statement of truth, in that she had substantially exaggerated her injuries.
Held: . .
Applied – Sony Computer Entertainment and Others v. Ball and Others ChD 17-May-2004
Pumfrey J considered the test to be applied when a party applied for leave to commence proceedings for contempt of court against another party: ‘It seems to me, in the light of the judgment in Malgar v. Leach, that the discretion to permit . .
Cited – Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (t/a Sony Computer Entertainment Inc) v Ball and Others ChD 17-May-2004
The claimant sought an order for the defendant to be pursued for contempt of court having filed a statement of truth which was known to be false. . .
Cited – KJM Superbikes Ltd v Hinton CA 20-Nov-2008
The claimant had been sued for the misuse of trademarks by selling motorcycles imported via a parallel market. It claimed that the defendant had filed false evidence in that action, and now appealed a refusal by the judge to bring contempt . .
Cited – Barnes (T/A Pool Motors) v Seabrook and Others Admn 23-Jul-2010
In each of three cases, the former defendants sought leave to bring claims for contempt of court in respect of what it said were fraudulent claims by the respondents. The defendants argued that a party had first to go to the Attorney General.
Cited – Hydropool Hot Tubs Ltd v Roberjot and Another ChD 4-Feb-2011
The parties disputed ownership of a customer database. An interim order had been made prohibiting the defendants’ from its use pending trial. A mandatory order had been made for the disclosure of a list of contacts made, and the claimant complained . .
Cited – Nield and Another v Loveday and Another Admn 13-Jul-2011
The court considered the institution of proceedings for contempt of court based upon an allegation that a document filed in court proceedings and supported by a statement of truth was false. In this case the defendant argued that the first claimant . .
Cited – Stobart Group Ltd and Others v Elliott QBD 11-Apr-2013
The defendant applied to the court for various officers of the cliamant companies to be subject to contempt proceedings. The claimants asked the court to strike of the defendant’s counterclaim and to make a civil restraint order against him. There . .
Cited – Berry Piling Systems Ltd v Sheer Projects Ltd TCC 28-Feb-2013
The defendant sought permission to bring contempt proceedings against former directors of the claimant company, saying that by means of false evidence they had secured an arbitration verdict.
Held: A reckless disregard for the truth or falsity . .
Cited – Hughes Jarvis Ltd v Searle and Another CA 15-Jan-2019
The claimant and director appealed from orders associated with a finding of contempt of court. The Director, the case having been adjourned overnight during the course of his evidence, and despite warnings to the contrary had sought to communicate . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Contempt of Court, Civil Procedure Rules
Updated: 13 December 2021; Ref: scu.83345