• Robert Spicer

Supreme Court: breach of embargo:contempt

SUPREME COURT

Breach of embargo

Contempt of court

Case Attorney General v Crosland [2021] UKSC 15, Supreme Court

Facts In May 2021 Crosland, director of the Plan B legal charity, was convicted of contempt of court by a three-member Supreme Court panel. He was fined £5000 and order to pay the Attorney-General’s costs.

Crosland had breached an embargo on the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Plan B v Secretary of State for Transport, 24 hours before it was due to be published. Crosland had been given advance access to the judgment under a standard procedure which gives parties the opportunity to comment on factual or legal errors. Crosland argued that the judgment contained an error of fact related to the proposed third runway at Heathrow Airport and that the Secretary of State had misled Parliament and the public. He also argued that the Courts unsatisfactory response meant that he had no option but to breach the embargo to publicise and protest the misconduct. Further, his disclosure should not be treated as contempt because the disclosure had been necessary in the light of the climate crisis. He appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision 1. The appeal was dismissed.

2. Although the embargo and the finding of contempt interfered with Crosland’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, such interference was justified because it was prescribed by law and was in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

3. The fine and the costs award of £15,000 was upheld.

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