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Contempt of Court

Contempt of Court Solicitors Manchester & Stockport

 

Clifford Johnston & Co has more than 20 years’ experience in dealing with the full spectrum of contempt of court cases, which appear to be increasing both in number and in complexity.

Our team has extensive experience of assisting clients who find themselves accused of breaching a court order.  If you become aware that charges may be brought against you, call us today for immediate assistance.

There are many different types of contempt of court applications including:

Civil proceedings for contempt of court can arise in any area of law including family, civil, regulatory, planning or any other field that may be litigated in non-criminal courts.

Our Contempt of Court Defence Lawyers are based in Stockport and Manchester, but with clients across the UK. We can, therefore, assist you wherever you are based.

Breach of a Court Order

The most common form of contempt of court is for failing to comply with a court order.  This could be either doing something or failing to do something as required by the order.

An example of this would be a parent who fails to pay court-ordered child support, or a business person withdrawing funds from a company account while a freezing order is in place.

Contempt charges are taken very seriously as they are seen as “an affront to the rule of law itself".  It is one of the most effective ways for the court to ensure compliance with the rulings set out in any court order.

Exaggerated Claims

Personal injury claims which are either fraudulent in nature or which have been grossly exaggerated are now frequently resulting in committal cases.

If an insurance company believes that a claimant has brought a fraudulent injury claim or has exaggerated his or her injuries or losses it can apply to the court for the Claimant’s committal to prison for contempt of court.

There are numerous high profile examples of this in the national press.

Defendants and their insurance companies are increasingly seeking to investigate the accuracy of a Claimant’s statements to identify dishonest exaggeration in an attempt to  secure a higher settlement figure.

This is likely to include social media searches, CCTV and witness statements at the very least.  In higher value cases a private investigator may be drafted in to provide surveillance evidence.

If a Claimant is found to have exaggerated any part of the claim, the entire claim could be dismissed.

Legal Aid

For the purposes of Legal Aid, civil contempt of court proceedings are criminal as there is a risk that the client may go to prison.

Therefore, Legal Aid is often available to those facing a committal application in all cases of civil contempt of Court proceedings before the High Court, regardless of your income.

What is contempt of court?

There are two types of contempt of court – criminal contempt and civil contempt.

Civil contempt of court is conduct that is not a crime in itself, but is punishable by the court in order to ensure that its orders are observed.   It is the act of deliberately failing to obey the authority of a court of law or legislative body.

The standard of proof in civil contempt of court proceedings is to the criminal standard which means that the case must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The Civil Procedure Rules (“the CPR”) govern how civil cases are dealt with.  Parties and witnesses should be aware of CPR 32.14(1), which provides:

“Proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person if he makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified in a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.”

Criminal contempt of court

Criminal contempt of court is defined as 'an act or omission calculated to interfere with the due administration of justice'.  Criminal contempt of court goes beyond non-compliance with a court order and involves a serious interference with the administration of justice, where there is intentional defiance or disrespect towards the court.

Criminal contempt may occur directly ‘in the face’ of the court, such as interrupting or disrupting proceedings within the courtroom, or indirectly such as publishing an article aimed at influencing jurors or witnesses.

Some examples of criminal contempt of court are:

  • Repeatedly breaching a freezing order.
  • Repeated outbursts in the court of law during a hearing.
  • Threatening witnesses.
  • Misleading a medical expert in a clinical negligence claim.
  • Exaggerating an injury to increase the value of claim.

Our contempt of court solicitors in Manchester and Stockport can provide the necessary support if you are accused of such crimes.

Our criminal solicitors work hand-in-hand with our civil law solicitors to ensure that we are well placed to provide a full service in the area of contempt of court, including assistance in obtaining legal aid where appropriate.

What are the penalties for contempt of court?

A person found in contempt of court can be sent to prison for up to two years. The court also has powers to fine those found to be in contempt.

A defendant who loses a contempt of court case can also be ordered to pay his or her opponent’s costs which can run into thousands of pounds.

In the recent case of Accident Exchange Limited v Broom,  seven defendants were found in contempt of court and sentenced to between 6 and 14 months in prison. They also face a total costs claim from the successful applicant which is believed to be in excess of £1m.

If you breach orders of the Court you face the prospect of a prison sentence for doing so.  To have the best chance of defeating a Committal Application or to minimise the sanctions likely to be imposed by the Court, it is vital that you seek legal advice at an early stage in the committal proceedings. Publicly funded representation is often available through the Legal Aid system.

Contact our expert contempt of court solicitor today

If you are involved in a committal case it is often hard to know where to turn for advice.

Philip Walsh at Clifford Johnston & Co has more than 20 years’ experience in dealing with civil contempt of court cases. He can provide advice on all aspects of contempt cases including:

  • The need to obtain disclosure of relevant documents.
  • What the applicant will need to prove.
  • Legal professional privilege and what documents those making the committal application are entitled to see.
  • Whether there is a defence to the committal application.
  • The possibility of making early admissions to gain maximum credit from the court which may result in a lighter sentence.
  • The likely sentence if found to be in contempt.

Our approachable and professional team will offer you expert advice relating to your case, such as any available defence to the committal application, any possibility of making early admissions for maximum credit from the court, and the sentence you are likely to face if you are found to be in contempt.

Contact Philip Walsh at Clifford Johnston & Co if you need advice regarding a civil contempt of court case.

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