1.15In a country bound by the rule of law, only the courts have the authority to determine guilt according to the law and evidence put before the court. The jury trial plays a pivotal role in our justice system.
1.16A number of statutory provisions protect the integrity of the jury trial process and, most crucially, citizens’ fundamental right to a fair trial. These include the Bill of Rights Act, the Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Act. The principles underpinning this statutory framework distil many years of jurisprudence and are designed to ensure that citizens, who are at the mercy of the very considerable powers vested in the courts, are treated fairly and have all the necessary protections offered by due process.
1.17Many of the underlying concepts in our justice system are being fundamentally challenged by the paradigm shift in communications and the way in which all citizens can exercise their right to freedom of expression. In time, this may transform the conduct of trials and the way evidence is gathered and communicated to those determining cases. However, the Commission’s review of contempt of court must assess whether, within the constraints of the existing legal system (which includes the jury trial), it is possible to improve the ways in which the law of contempt of court supports the administration of justice.