Contempt of Court (Common Law)

From Criminal Law Notebook

General Principles

See also: Contempt of Court (Offence)

In the course of a proceeding, a Judge may determine whether a person is guilty of "in facie" contempt of court (contempt "in the face" of the court).

Both superior court and provincial courts have jurisdiction to summarily punish a person for in facie contempt without the formalities of a trial.[1] It is considered part of the court's "inherent and essential jurisdiction"

The use of the summary powers to punish should be exercised with "scrupulous care."[2]

The need for contempt powers comes from the court's need to "uphold its dignity and process."[3] This is also necessary for the rule of law as a court must be able to enforce their process.[4]

  1. R v Hardy, 2023 BCPC 65 (CanLII), per Patterson J, at para 7
    Vermette, 1987 CanLII 51 (SCC), per McIntyre J , at para 6 ("Contempt powers existed for both superior courts and courts of inferior jurisdiction, but the jurisdiction of the inferior courts was limited to contempt in the face, or in the presence, of the court…") see also s. 9 of the Criminal Code
  2. R. v. B.K., 1995 CanLII 45 (SCC), per Major J (dissent on separate issue) at para 26
  3. United Nurses of Alberta v. Alberta (Attorney General), 1992 CanLII 99 (SCC), per McLachlin J
  4. United Nurses, ibid.
    Vermette, supra ("This power was necessary, and remains so, to enable the orderly conduct of the court's business and to prevent interference with the court's proceedings")