Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

Will you go to prison for contempt if you are rude to the Family Court judge?

There is a possibility that you will be sent to prison if you are rude to the Family Court judge as this behaviour may be a contempt in the face of the court.

During a telephone hearing in the Family Court in May 2022, a defendant insulted and verbally abused the judge.  Court hearings are recorded by the court service and the recordings can be transcribed if required at a future point.  Therefore, there is no dispute about what occurred during the hearing. The defendant said to the judge  “Who the fuck do you think you are speaking to me like that?”. He spoke over the judge and then said “No. You listen to me, what I’m saying for one minute, mate”.

The court will mute a party during a court hearing if the individual is being disruptive or noisy.  The judge did mute the defendant but upon being un-muted, he said “Get fucked … I’m done with this me, mate”. He then informed the judge that he had recorded the hearing and was going put it “in public.”

When you attend a remote hearing, you are informed that you must not record the hearing, and to do so would be contempt of court.   Disrupting a court hearing and acting in an abuse manner is also contempt in the face of the court.

As a result of his behaviour, the defendant was summoned to attend the High Court, to respond to an allegation that he was in contempt of court, as a result of his conduct during the telephone hearing in May. This summons was issued by the court.  The High Court judge dealing with the case listened to the audio recording.   He was satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendant had behaved inappropriately and with disrespect.  It was found that he had insulted the judge, was abusive to the judge, disrupted the proceedings and showed himself unwilling to recognise the authority of the court.

The question to be determined was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to contempt in the face of the court.  Did he intend to disrupt the administration of justice and/or was this a foreseeable consequence of his behaviour?

The judge concluded that the conduct was both insulting and disrespectful to the judge, offensive to the applicant, undermining of the dignity and authority of the court, and disruptive to the due administration of justice. I find that it was a contempt in the face of the court.

On sentencing the defendant, the judge imposed a term of imprisonment for 14 days for each of the four allegations of contempt, to run at the same time. The sentence was suspended for 12 months, on the condition that the defendant did not behave in a similar way in any court hearing during the subsequent 12 months.

Re David Duggan (Contempt in the Face of the Court)[2022] EWHC 2529 (Fam)

You can read more about how to properly address a judge in the Family Court in this post.

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