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Contempt of Court and Disrespectful Conduct in Court

Contempt of Court

Contempt of court is the failure to obey a court order or an act which shows a disregard for the authority of the court or judge. For example, a failure to comply with a subpoena which as been properly addressed and served on a person [see for example, District Court Criminal Rules 2014 (SA) r 78]. This is a common law offence, and procedure surrounding written charges, warrants etc can be found in the rules [see District Court Criminal Rules 2014 (SA) rr 128-133].

A person in contempt may face a fine, or imprisonment, or both.

Disrespectful Conduct in Court

A person who is a party to proceedings in court must not intentionally engage in disrespectful conduct before the court during the proceedings.

Maximum penalty: $1250 or 3 months imprisonment

[Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) s 60(1) ]

Disrespectful conduct includes:

  • refusing to stand up after being requested to do so by the court; and
  • using offensive or threatening language; and
  • interfering with or undermining the authority, dignity or performance of the court.

A person must first be warned by the court that the person's conduct may result in a charge [s 60(2)].

It is a defence to section 60(1) if the conduct of the person charged was due to a cognitive impairment (including mental illness) or a physical disability [s 60(3)].

This section does not apply to children in the Youth Court [s 60(8)].

    Contempt of Court and Disrespectful Conduct in Court  :  Last Revised: Fri Dec 28th 2018
    The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.