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Contempt of Court


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13 December 2009

By Riyaz Jariwalla

If you have obtained a court order which includes an order (other than for the payment of money) against the Defendant ("D"By Riyaz Jariwalla) and D has disobeyed the order. D is said to have commited a civil contempt of court and is described as a contemnor. Because you have obtained the order, you may apply to the court for D to be committed to prison or for D's assets to be sequestrated (seized) by officers of the court.

The test we need to satisfy

To show that D is in contempt, it must be established that D's conduct was intentional and that D knew of all the facts which made that conduct a breach of the order.


An act which contravenes a court order in civil proceedings may be both a civil contempt of court and a criminal offence. There is no abuse of process in bringing both criminal proceedings and proceedings for civil contempt in respect of the same act (the case of Director of Public Prosecutions v Tweddell [2001] EWHC 188 (Admin), [2002] 2 FLR 400), though the court hearing the second proceeding should take into account any punishment already imposed.


Lee, note that punishment for a civil contempt of court is not in itself a remedy: it is a means of enforcing a remedy. A civil contempt of court is prosecuted as a matter between parties to proceedings and is punishable primarily in order to enforce compliance with an order of the court, for the benefit of the party who obtained the order. Enforcing respect for court orders also serves the public interest of promoting respect for the rule of law. Please do not use this process to get some sort of revenge against the D.

How many years?

A court may commit a contemnor to prison for up to two years (Contempt of Court Act 78.2 1981, s. 14(1)).


An application is made to the Patents County Court and must identify the proceedings in which the application is made and bear the same title and reference number. An application notice or claim form applying for a committal order must set out in full the grounds on which the committal application is made and should identify, separately and numerically, each alleged act of contempt. It must be supported by an affidavit.

When lodging the application notice or claim form with the court for issue or filing, the applicant must obtain a date for the hearing of the application.

An application notice applying for a committal order must be served personally on D, unless the court dispenses with service, which it may if it thinks it just to do so. It may be appropriate to dispense with service in cases of urgency, or where there have been persistent breaches of court orders, or the respondent is evading service. There must be at least 14 clear days between the service of the application and the date of the hearing, unless the court orders otherwise. When served, the application notice or claim form must be accompanied by a copy of the supporting affidavit.


Note, that the High Court has an inherent power to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of an alleged contemnor to secure his or her attendance in court.


75 - Court fee for applications; and

2,000 - 3,000 plus VAT for preparing and drafting application for contempt (does not include attending hearing).

For more information please contact us on 023 8023 5979 or email us on

Riyaz Jariwalla is a solicitor who specialises in intellectual property law and civil litigation.

About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-31 06:41:46 in Legal Articles

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