Anyone who records court proceedings without judicial consent commits an affront to the administration of justice and can expect severe punishment. A man who posted covert recordings of a highly sensitive Family Court hearing on YouTube found that out to his cost.
The man was fully aware that the proceedings were being heard in private. However, that did not deter him from bringing covert sound recording equipment into court. The posts included a recording of him cross-examining a mother in respect of an allegation of rape.
The posts, which were accessed by an audience of thousands, were accompanied by videos in which he made grave and entirely baseless accusations against those involved in the case, including the judge. The Attorney General responded by issuing proceedings seeking his committal to prison for contempt of court.
Upholding that application, the High Court found that he intended to interfere with the administration of justice. He had flatly refused to remove the videos, which gave a highly partial and partisan account of the proceedings. He had previous convictions for breach of court orders and had put forward no mitigation.
Imposing an immediate eight-month jail term, the Court noted that the publication of such recordings constitutes a serious risk to the administration of justice. If those giving evidence in family proceedings had to do so in the knowledge that their words might be recorded and relayed to the public at large, they would be reticent in placing their testimony fully and frankly before the courts.
The eight-month sentence was ordered to run consecutively to an eight-year jail term the man was already serving, having been convicted of numerous breaches of restraining and non-molestation orders. He was also ordered to pay the majority of the legal costs of the contempt proceedings.