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(partially) Secret Committal Hearing in Northampton

The link is to a story from Northampton where a mother was given a 28 days suspended sentence for putting information about her case on Facebook.

RSC Schedule 1 Order 52 states:
(2)If the court hearing an application in private by virtue of paragraph (1) decides to make an order of committal against the person sought to be committed, it shall in public state –

(a)the name of that person;

(b)in general terms the nature of the contempt of court in respect of which the order of committal is being made; and

(c)the length of the period for which he is being committed.


I don't have any information about the case apart from what is in the Northampton Chronicle. Clearly the existence of the hearing is not secret, but the identity of the mother is.

My own reading of Order 52 is that suspended committal orders are not distinguished from other committal orders.

It remains that contempt of court applications are of a criminal nature and for the protection of the rule of law they should involve open justice. It is particularly oppressive when people are prevented from speaking out about the situation as happens when reporting restrictions are applied.

The judge is also quoted as saying:
“I have broad shoulders and can accept that the difficult decision I had to make could cause great unhappiness to one or more of the parties. But it is not right the judge should be criticised in this way. If criticisms are justified then they should be made in the form of an appeal to a higher court.”

I personally am unsure as to
a) What criticism was made
b) What criticism in itself should have any impact on an order for committal whether suspended or not.

It remains, however, that although there are grounds for appeal of the courts decision (see Schedule 1 above) it is unlikely that there will be an appeal given the practical difficulty of making appeals.

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