Re West: CACD 17 Jul 2014

W, a barrister, appealed against a conviction for contempt of court. He had declined to comply with the directions asked of him by the judge at a pre-trial hearing, saying that the client’s instructions that he was not guilty were sufficient. He was found to have acted in contempt of court in refusing unreasonably to attend a hearing in a criminal case when he had been ordered so to do. His punishment was a fine of pounds 500.
Held: The Court overturned the finding of contempt because the alleged contemnor had not been served with a notice in advance of the hearing as required by the Rules.
Sir Brian Leveson P observed: ‘While Mr West was thus made aware in advance of the hearing that contempt of court would be considered, the notices provided clearly fell short of the procedural requirements set out in the Crim PR. In the normal course, compliance with the strict provisions of the Crim PR can be waived by the parties or the court; in cases of alleged contempt, however, we have no doubt that strict observance of the provisions is essential. As Mr Cox observed, the contempt jurisdiction is a powerful tool which can directly impact on the liberty of the subject. Compliance with the Crim PR allows the ‘charge’ to be fully formulated and beyond doubt; it provides a structure which forms the four corners of what is in issue and it avoids the very criticism that Mr Cox did advance in this case.
In the circumstances, given the significance of the jurisdiction of contempt of court, we have come to the conclusion that this failure of process invalidates the conclusion that the judge reached. We recognise that it is likely to have made little difference but we are not prepared to assert that; it is far more important to underline the vital importance, where issues of contempt arise in circumstances of this nature, of following the approach laid down by the Crim PR.’


Sir Brian Leveson P QBD, Patterson DBE J, Sir Richard Henriques


[2014] EWCA Crim 1480, [2015] 1 WLR 109, [2014] WLR(D) 321, [2014] 2 Cr App R 28


Bailii, WLRD


Administration of Justice Act 1960 13, Criminal Procedure Rules


England and Wales


CitedMorris v Crown Office CA 1970
The applicants had been engaged in a calculated and coordinated campaign of disruption of the court.
Held: ‘The archaic description of these proceedings as ‘contempt of court’ is in my view unfortunate and misleading. It suggests that they are . .
CitedPorter and Weeks v Magill HL 13-Dec-2001
Councillors Liable for Unlawful Purposes Use
The defendant local councillors were accused of having sold rather than let council houses in order to encourage an electorate which would be more likely to be supportive of their political party. They had been advised that the policy would be . .

Cited by:

CitedRe Yaxley-Lennon (Aka Tommy Robinson) CACD 1-Aug-2018
Need for clarity in Contempt Allegation
The defendant appealed from his convictions for contempt of court, being said to have broadcast details of criminal prosecutions despite orders to the contrary. He argued that any failure of procedure was fatal to the prosecutions.
Held: As to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court, Legal Professions

Updated: 20 May 2022; Ref: scu.534425