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Contempt of Court: Updated Part 81 of the Civil Procedure Rules

The third amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules 2020 will come into effect from 1 October 2020. Following a public consultation, extensive revisions were undertaken to condense the previous rules and to set out a uniform procedure. The new Part 81 reduces the number of rules from 38 to 10. Our specialist litigation lawyers can advise you in relation to any contempt of Court applications you may wish to issue or defend.

Part 81 of the Civil Procedure Rules, which came into force on 1 October 2020, sets out the practices and procedures for contempt applications. The previous Part 81 has been referred to as poorly drafted, complicated and repetitive. The updated Part 81 of the CPR is much more condensed in comparison to the old Part 81 and easier to operate.

Our specialist litigation lawyers can advise you in relation to any contempt of Court applications you may wish to issue or defend.

What is contempt of Court?

Contempt of court refers to actions which either cast disrespect on a Court, impede the ability of the Court to perform its function or defy a Court’s authority. Contempt of Court may either be considered a criminal contempt or civil contempt.

Are there different types of contempt of court?

There are predominately two types of contempt of court:

  • Contempt by disobedience – for example, disobeying or breaching a court order or judgment.
  • Contempt by interference -for example, disrupting any court proceedings or the court process itself.

What is a civil contempt of Court?

Civil contempt of Court is when either an individual or an entity fails to adhere to an order of the Court, with usually results injury to a private party’s rights. By way of an example, failure to pay court ordered payment to your opponent in litigation can lead to punishment for civil contempt.

Is civil contempt a crime?

Civil contempt is conduct that is not itself a crime but is conduct which is punishable by the Court to ensure that Court orders are adhered to. Failing to adhere to or disobeying a Court order in the course of litigation are some of the common examples of conduct that constitutes a civil contempt.

In the circumstances where the opponent is able to prove an allegation of contempt beyond reasonable doubt, the Court has the power to punish a civil contempt by making an order for committal to prison, a financial penalty or confiscation of assets.

What are the consequences of a false statement of truth?

Signing a statement of truth or allowing a solicitor to sign where you know that a document contains a false statement may lead to you being contempt of court (CPR 32.14).

Part VI of Part 81 of the Civil Procedural Rules contains rules about committal applications in relation to making or causing to be made a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.

What are committal proceedings?

A committal application or proceedings are made in response to a contempt of court or a writ of sequestration. The Court must give permission to a party who seeks to make a committal application as per PD 81.11 which usually will be commenced via a Part 8 claim form or an application under CPR 23.

What are the changes to the contempt of court rules?

The new Part 81 has been reduced in size significantly to simply 10 brief rules, which focus on the procedural aspect of the CPR.

We note the main changes below:

  • The new Part 81.2 – The parties will be referred to as ‘claimant’ or ‘defendant’ in respect of civil contempt applications. The parties were previously referred to as ‘applicant’ or ‘respondent’.
  • The new Part 81.3 – In comparison to the old Part 81, the new Part 81.3 clearly sets out the process via which claimants are able to make a contempt application and if they require the Court’s permission to do so.
  • The new Part 81.4 – sets out the requirements of a contempt application in a clear and succinct manner. It has been described as ‘… the cornerstone of the new … Part 81. It is intended to stand as the guarantor of procedural fairness and incorporates the requirements of procedural fairness to the defendant. If the rule is complied with, procedural fairness is likely to be observed.’
  • The new Part 81.5 – the new Part 81.5 of the rules provide clarity in relation to the service of contempt applications. Given the serious nature of the contempt applications, every contempt application must be supported by a witness statement and served personally on the defendant (unless the Defendant is represented by solicitors who are instructed to accept service of the contempt application).
  • The new Part 81.8 – the requirement for judges and advocates to be robed in all hearings of contempt proceedings, both in public and in private are now set out in the rules rather than appearing in a Practice Direction or Practice Guidance. In addition to this, the new Part 81.8 sets out the process by which the Court will decide whether and if so to what extent the hearing should be in private.
  • Amended Part 32.14 – this rule covering false statements has been updated to clarify that contempt proceedings may be brought against a person who makes a false statement in a document (either prepared in anticipation of or during proceedings), and which is verified by a statement of truth, without an honest belief in the truth of such statement.

How do you apply to discharge committal orders?

  • A defendant against whom a committal order has been made may apply to discharge it.
  • Any such application shall be made by an application notice under Part 23 in the contempt proceedings.
  • The court hearing such an application shall consider all the circumstances and make such order under the law as it thinks fit.

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