Determining contempts by improper pressure on a litigant: an objective or subjective test?

Roy Baker

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This paper concerns the form of contempt committed by public dissemination of matter that puts improper pressure on a litigant to discontinue or otherwise alter the course of proceedings. In determining what constitutes improper pressure, the test could be either subjective (considering the vulnerability to pressure of the particular litigant) or objective (considering the effect of the impugned pressure on a hypothetical litigant of ordinary fortitude). The paper examines whether the law in Australia and England has settled on which approach to adopt. It also considers which of a subjective or objective approach best realises four outcomes that seem self-evidently desirable: certainty; extending special protection to those litigants most vulnerable to media pressure; maximising freedom of media expression; and, disposing of accidental contempts more leniently than those of the deliberate contemnor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalMedia and Arts Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Publisher version archived with the permission of the publisher Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia. This archived copy is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission to use this version for other uses must be obtained from the publisher.


  • contempt of court
  • media law
  • journalists and the law
  • journalism and the law
  • improper pressure on a litigant


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