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Report No. 200

The provision for postponement orders in section 4(2) of the (UK) Contempt of Courts Act, 1981: Substantial risk of serious prejudice:

The provisions of section 4(2) of the UK Act, 1981 were brought in after the Sunday Times case was decided in 1979 by the European Court. The subsection was drafted in the light of the comment by the European Court that UK law of contempt was vague. It reads:

"section 4(2): In any proceedings, the Court may, if it appears to be necessary for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those proceedings, or in any other proceedings pending or imminent, order that the publication of any report of the proceedings or any part of the proceedings, be postponed for such period as the Court thinks necessary for that purpose"

The section applies to prejudice in civil and criminal proceedings. The important words in this provision are the words 'necessary' and 'substantial risk of prejudice'. The other words 'pending or imminent' refer to proceedings 'imminent' as enumerated in the Schedule 1 to that Act, which includes the 'date of arrest'.

In this connection, we may point out that there is an exhaustive discussion of what words should be used while enabling Courts to pass 'suppression' orders. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission, in its Discussion Paper 43 (2000) on 'Contempt by Publication' devotes a full chapter for 'Suppression Orders' (Chapter X). In the Final Report of 2003, the subject is again discussed in Chapter X, 'Suppression Orders'. We shall report to these Reports.

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