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Government of Wales Act 2006

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Section 43: Contempt of court

205.Assembly proceedings, unlike those of the UK Parliament, are subject to the law of contempt of court. No express provision is needed to make them so, because the law of contempt of court and particularly the strict liability rule in the Contempt of Court Act 1981 will apply automatically unless expressly disapplied.

206.This section disapplies the rule of strict liability for contempt of court in relation to publications made in or for the purposes of Assembly proceedings, or in certain reports of Assembly proceedings.

207.The strict liability rule is defined by section 1 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 as that whereby conduct may be treated as a contempt of court regardless of intent to interfere with the course of justice in particular legal proceedings. In terms of section 2 of that Act the rule only applies to a publication which creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in active legal proceedings will be seriously impeded or prejudiced. Section 5 of the Act provides that the rule does not apply to publications made during a discussion in good faith of public affairs if the risk of impediment or prejudice to particular legal proceedings is merely incidental to the discussion.

208.This section is intended to ensure that the Assembly is not prevented from legislating on any matter merely because anything said or done in proceedings to consider an Assembly Measure, an Assembly Bill or subordinate legislation might be treated as a contempt of court under the “strict liability rule”. However, unlike section 42 of the Scotland Act 1998, the protection afforded by this section applies not just to proceedings relating to legislation, but to all proceedings of the Assembly, as currently does section 78 of the Government of Wales Act 1998. Section 31(2) requires standing orders to include provision “for preventing conduct which would constitute ... a contempt of court” and a sub judice rule.

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