Litigants involved in civil proceedings can go to jail for disobeying Court orders. Contempt of court in Canada is the only remaining common law offense in the Criminal Code. It reflects the Court’s inherent common law power to control its own processes. Examples of behaviour that could amount to contempt include: misbehaving in court (e.g. a witness who insults a judge), obstructing justice (e.g. bribing a witness), disobeying a Court order (such as an injunction), and scandalizing the Court (e.g. unfounded criticisms or accusations of bias directed against a judge or the Court). The bases for the power include the necessity to keep order,command respect for the Court and protect the public and litigants from abuse. The common law distinguishes between civil and criminal contempt. Civil contempt at common law consists largely in disobeying a judgment or court order or failing to appear as a witness when ordered to do so. Criminal contempt of Court results from words, acts, or writings that constitute an obstruction or discredit to the administration of justice. Examples include attempting to influence a judge, accusing a judge of bias or bribing a witness or a juror.
This week, the Court released reasons for judgment in R. v. Dhillon, 2015 BCSC 1298 wherein the accused was sentenced for committing criminal contempt of Court for publishing blog posts contrary to Court order. The contempt in this case arose in the context of a (usually straightforward) bankruptcy proceeding, and involved contempt of Court by (surprisingly) a creditor to the bankrupt and not the bankrupt himself. The sentence was 30 days in jail! You can read the reasons here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/15/12/2015BCSC1298.htm.
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