Contempt of Court

October 22, 2013 Hull & Hull LLP Litigation Tags: 0 Comments

The requirement for individuals to abide by court order is paramount.  This importance is founded in the rule of law.  The famed Lord Denning stated in Morris v. Crown Office, [1970] 2 QB 114, “[o]f all the places where law and order must be maintained, it is here in these courts.  The courts of justice must not be deflected or interfered with.  Those who strike it, strike at the very foundations of our society”.

Failure to abide by a court order constitutes (civil) contempt of court.  According to Rule 60.11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, a contempt order to enforce an order requiring a person to do an act, other than the payment of money, may be obtained on motion to a judge.

Cumming J., in, Sussex Group Ltd. v. Fangeat [2003] O.J. No. 3348, at para 53, states that in order to prove a person in contempt of a court order it must be established that: (1) the person had knowledge of the nature of the terms of the order; (2) the order is directive and not simply permissive; and (3) the person’s conduct is in contravention of the order.  Each element must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pursuant to Rule 60.11(5) the judge may make such order as is just, and where a finding of contempt is made, the judge may order, amongst other things, that the person in contempt, be imprisoned or pay a fine.

The 2009 Superior Court of Justice case of Willis Estate (Re), deals with the appropriate sentence to impose on an attorney for property and joint bank account holder who was found in contempt of an order requiring him to, amongst other things, pass his accounts and provide an inventory of his mother’s assets.  Justice Brown, having considered the proportionality of the sentence and gravity of the offence, ordered that the attorney pay a fine of $7,000.00.  Failure to pay the fine would lead to 7 days of jail time.

As a young lawyer, I always make it my practice to not only diarize, but to send reminders to clients, ensuring that all orders and deadlines are complied with.

Noah Weisberg

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