Regina v Havant Justices ex parte Palmer: QBD 1985

Palmer was a witness to proceedings before a Magistrates’ Court. Whilst he and the defendant were waiting in the foyer outside the court for the magistrates to consider their decision Palmer threatened the defendant. He was charged with and convicted of a contempt, then sought to appeal. The crown court declined jurisdiction. He then sought judicial review.
Held: On the facts, what had happened was not a contempt since it did not amount to an insult. However, section 12(5) was confined to appeals against sentence only and not to appeals against conviction.
May LJ said: ‘In those circumstances, as again will be readily apparent, it becomes unnecessary for this court to express any final opinion on the decision of the learned circuit Judge at Portsmouth that he had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal by the applicant against the magistrates’ decision. However, well appreciating that any views which I now express may well hereafter be said to be obiter, having had the benefit of extensive argument on the point and also because it is perhaps a more important one than the one with which I have already dealt, I do propose to express a view upon it.
Mr Foskett [counsel for Palmer] drew our attention to what at first sight appears to be the somewhat unhappy wording of s. 12(5) of the 1981 Act, particularly the phrase ‘in relation to a sentence on conviction or finding of guilty of an offence’. At first reading, one might be forgiven for expecting either the word ‘to’ or ‘a’ before the words ‘finding of guilty of an offence’, but neither is there and for my part I think that it is not for the reason put forward in his submissions by Mr Foskett. By s. 59 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 it was provided that the words ‘conviction’ and ‘sentence’ were to cease to be used in relation to children and young persons dealt with summarily and any reference in any enactment passed before or after the commencement of that Act should in the case of a child or a young person be construed as including a reference to that person being found guilty of an offence, a finding of guilty, or an order made upon such a finding. A child or young person, therefore, is not to be convicted; he or she is to be found guilty of an offence. It is for this reason, Mr Foskett submits, that one finds the word ‘conviction’ and the phrase ‘finding of guilty of an offence’ side by side in subs. (5). For my part, I accept that submission and that then leads one to the proper construction of that subsection.
The relevant section of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 in the instant case of those referred to in s. 12(5) of the 1981 Act is s. 108, which provides for a right of appeal to the Crown Court for a person convicted by magistrates – if he pleaded guilty, against sentence; if he did not, against the conviction or sentence. But s. 12(5) of the 1981 Act merely refers to an ‘order’ under s. 12 and applies s. 108 of the Act of the previous year to that order only as it applies ‘in relation to a sentence on conviction or finding of guilty of an offence.’ Thus, in my opinion, the jurisdiction of a Crown court in this context is limited to hearing an appeal against the penalty imposed by magistrates for the contempt which they have found to have been committed: there is no jurisdiction in a Crown Court to hear an appeal by a person against the actual finding of contempt by justices under s. 12(1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
Thus, in my judgment, in the instant case the learned circuit Judge was wholly right to decline jurisdiction in so far as the appeal against the finding of contempt was concerned, although had he been minded to and had the applicant been prepared to proceed on that limited basis, he did, in my judgment, have jurisdiction in respect of penalty.’

May LJ, Nolan J
(1985) 149 JP
Contempt of Court Act 1981 12, Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 108
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedHaw and Another v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court Admn 12-Dec-2007
The defendants appealed convictions for contempt of court, on the basis of having wilfully interrupted the court. The respondent said that no appeal lay.
Held: The statute was ambiguous, and ‘there can be no good reason why a person convicted . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court

Updated: 12 January 2022; Ref: scu.263631