First published June 25
When Justice Pierre Slicer recently threatened 3 members of the public with imprisonment for Contempt of Court for taking notes during a bail application, despite not warning the court that taking notes was illegal, it raised two thorny issues:
1. When members of the public are threatened with charges such as Contempt of Court or Perverting the Course of Justice it can be intimidating and acts as discouragement for the public to attend court or come forward with information or concerns.
2. It is hard for the public to know when and how they might be in breach of such imprecise laws – assault or car theft might be clear and unambiguous. But to say ignorance of the law is no defence becomes troubling when it seems that such imprecise laws as Contempt of Court and Attempting to Pervert the Course of Justice means whatever the judiciary wants them to mean at any given time. And even more troubling is the public perception that our justice system is not, in fact, just.
Is it common practice for Tasmanian judges in our court system to threaten members of the public with Contempt of Court?
*Jennie Herrera lives in Hobart and is a writer and social justice and human rights activist.