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Contempt of Parliament: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In many jurisdictions governed by a parliament, Contempt of Parliament is the crime of obstructing the parliament in the carrying out of its functions, or of hindering any Member of Parliament in the performance of his or her duties.

Actions which can constitute a contempt of Parliament vary, but typically include such things as:

In some jurisdictions, a House of Parliament may declare any act to constitute contempt, and this is not subject to judicial review. In others, contempt of Parliament is defined by statute; while Parliament makes the initial decision of whether to punish for contempt, the person or organisation in contempt may appeal to the courts.


Examples of Contempt of Parliament



In the Commonwealth of Australia, the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 defines contempt of Parliament as follows:

Conduct (including the use of words)...[which] amounts, or is intended or likely to amount, to an improper interference with the free exercise by a House or committee of its authority or functions, or with the free performance by a member of the member's duties as a member.

Contempt decisions by the House of Representatives or the Senate are thus subject to review by the Federal Courts.

Punishments are limited under the Act to (for individuals) a fine of $5,000 and/or six months' imprisonment, or (for corporations) a fine of $25,000.

In the Senate, allegations of contempt are heard by the Privileges Committee, which decides whether or not a contempt was committed, and if so, what punishment is to be imposed. In practice, there have been very few times when a hearing determined that anyone was in contempt, and on no occasions has anyone been punished beyond a warning, with an apology and/or appropriate remedial action.


The power to find a person in contempt of Parliament stemmed from Section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867 in which "The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed... shall not confer any privileges, immunities, or powers exceeding those at the passing of such Act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members thereof." [1]

Rarely has Parliament invoked its power to find a person in contempt. The most recent example involved RCMP deputy commissioner Barbara George who was cited for contempt for deliberately misleading a parliamentary committee over the Income Trust Scandal.[2] She was ultimately found in contempt but was not punished further than the motion itself. [3]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, it has been alleged that arresting a member of Parliament in the course of carrying out his duties may constitute contempt of Parliament.[4] Offenders can be ordered to appear in the House of Commons, where a suitable punishment would be decided.[5] MPs accused of Contempt of Parliament may be suspended or expelled.

See also



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