Borrie & Lowe – The Law of Contempt (3rd Edition, 1996) Butterworths £125

In the 12 years since the 2nd Edition of Borrie & Lowe was published, the law of contempt has become increasingly complex, with no fewer than nine cases concerned with contempt having proceeded to the House of Lords. The 3rd Edition deals comprehensively with these recent cases, including extensive analysis of the Spycatcher and Lonhro decisions. It also brings the subject up to date with some lessons to be learned from the media coverage of the Rosemary West trial.

This is an authoritative work combining an academic and a practical approach to a complex subject. It does not lose sight of the development of contempt of court under common law and is useful and thought-provoking when dealing with the interplay between the common law and the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

For example, it considers the scope for reporting proceedings in chambers or in camera and the effect of orders under section 4 or section 11 of the Act, devoting a whole chapter to these issues. There is also a comprehensive analysis of the strict liability rule under the Act and the relevance of the common law in light of the rule.

A significant proportion of the book deals with contempts committed through publications which interfere with legal proceedings. The analysis is performed generally in the first instance by looking at the position under the common law and under the Act; it is then specifically applied to particular criminal and civil proceedings.

Law reform is considered throughout the text, with useful comparative references to the laws of other commonwealth jurisdictions. There is also an interesting critique on the distinction between civil and criminal contempt.

As well as dealing with the law itself, the book covers the procedural aspects of the law of contempt and also deals with the jurisdiction and powers of the different courts in hearing applications and appeals.

In addition, a chapter is devoted to the law and procedure as it relates to tribunals of inquiry, enabling this work to deal comprehensively with both the law and the procedure of contempt in relation to different judicial forums.

The Law of Contempt is essential reading for media lawyers and an invaluable tool for litigation practitioners, both civil and criminal.