Contempt of Court
Contempt of court cases appear to be increasing both in number and in complexity. There are many different types of contempt of court applications including:
- Breach of an injunction order.
- Breach of an undertaking to the court.
- Contempt in the face of the court.
- Fraudulent or exaggerated claims.
Personal injury claims which are either fraudulent in nature or which have been grossly exaggerated are now frequently resulting in committal cases and if an insurance company believes that a claimant has brought a fraudulent 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.
The Civil Procedure Rules (“the CPR”) govern how civil cases are dealt with and 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.”
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.
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 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.
Although committal applications are civil cases they are treated by the Legal Aid Agency as criminal matters so non-means tested legal aid is often available to those facing a committal application.
Contact Philip Walsh at Clifford Johnston & Co if you need advice regarding a civil contempt of court case.