Contempt Of Court

Asare Bediako & Co


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The sanctity of the court must at all times be protected. People must have a sense of belief in the administration of justice.
Ghana Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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The sanctity of the court must at all times be protected. People must have a sense of belief in the administration of justice. It is for this reason that the courts have developed a mechanism to protect its sanctity known as Committal for Contempt.


Contempt of court refers to the disobedience of an order of the court. Additionally, a conduct tending to obstruct or interfere with the orderly administration of Justice also qualifies as contempt of court. A person found guilty of contempt is referred to as a contemnor.


The purpose of recognizing contempt of court is to secure the dignity of the courts and the uninterrupted and unimpeded administration of justice.


  1. DIRECT CONTEMPT: This is also called Contempt In Facie Curiae and is committed inside the court during proceedings. It may also be committed in the presence of the judge. This type of contempt is punishable without trial as it happened before the judge. Therefore, the judge can immediately punish the contemnor.
  2. INDIRECT CONTEMPT: This is also referred to as Ex Facie Curiae and is committed outside the court. A person charged with indirect contempt must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard.

Various conducts may constitute contempt. These conducts include interfering with witnesses or jurors, frightening parties off from litigation, refusing to answer questions in court, commenting on pending proceedings in such a manner as to prejudice the outcome, refusing to obey an order of the court etc.

The resulting effect where a person is found guilty of contempt is that of imprisonment or payment of a fine.

Even though there is no specific law on contempt in Ghana, the absence of codification of the law of contempt in Ghana does not in itself violate the principle that there must not be crime or punishment except in accordance with fixed or pre-determined law.

Order 50 of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules OF Ghana (2004) CI 47 has indicated the manner in which a person may be committed for contempt of court.

By Order 50 Rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 20024 (C.I. 47), Committal proceedings shall be commenced by an application to the court supported by an affidavit stating the grounds of the application.

It is worthy to note that the notice of motion, together with a copy of the affidavit in support of the application ought to be served on the person sought to be committed.

By Order 50 Rule 2 of C.I. 47, the Court on its own motion can make an order against a person to show cause why the person should not be committed for contempt of court.


The case of Republic vrs Sitso 1; Ex parte Fordjour (2001-2002) SCGLR322 outlined the elements constituting the offence of contempt as follows:

  1. There should have been a judgment or order which required the contemnor to do or abstain from doing something.
  2. The contemnor knew what precisely he was expected to do or abstain from doing; and
  3. That he failed to comply with the terms of that judgment or the order and that his disobedience was willful.


Contempt of court is a quasi-criminal offence and as such the standard of proof required before a person is convicted for contempt is proof beyond reasonable doubt. The standard of proof required for contempt is therefore the same as that of the criminal standard of proof. This is mainly because a person convicted of contempt is likely to have his liberty curtailed. Thus, the denial of liberty of any citizen of our Republic resulting from a charge of contempt is effected in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This accounts for the high standard of proof required for contempt proceedings.


Though an order of a court ordinarily binds the parties to the action, a third party can be found guilty of contempt if with knowledge of the order of the court, he aids or abets a party in breaking the order, or in other ways, does anything that obstructs or frustrates the said order.


Contempt proceedings have therefore become a useful tool to help the dignity of the courts to be upheld always. The burden of proving that an individual is guilty of contempt is always on the Applicant. An Applicant who seeks to have a person convicted for contempt is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person cited for contempt has disobeyed an order or judgment of the Court and did so willfully.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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