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Have you ever wondered what act or conduct will make a person guilty of contempt and end up being imprisoned by a judge?

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Have you ever wondered what act or conduct will make a person guilty of contempt and end up being imprisoned by a judge?

Contempt of court is conduct calculated to undermine the court’s dignity and the administration of justice. Contempt is a serious offence which must not be taken with levity; therefore, lawyers, litigants, witnesses and other persons are expected to comport themselves to the highest regard and decorum during court proceedings.

 Here are examples of conducts which may be termed as contempt of court

  • Conduct which tends to bring into disrespect or disrepute the authority of the court and the administration of justice
  • Improper conduct which interferes with the course of proceedings while a court session is ongoing.
  • Slanderous, rude comments during a court session.
  • Unbecoming, abusive or improper conduct during a court session
  • Total disregard or failure to comply with the order given by the court.
  • Conducts aimed at undermining the powers of the court.

There are two types of Contempt

  • Contempt in Facie Curiae (Contempt in the face of the court): These are conducts which obstruct or disrupt court proceedings. The court has the power to punish this type of contempt summarily (Immediately it happens). The offender is charged and punished summarily for the contempt. 
  • Disrespectful conduct or comment made in the courtroom by a litigant, lawyer witness or any other while a court proceeding is ongoing.
  • Because this contempt occurs while the court session is ongoing and in the presence of the judge, the judge will ask the offender to show cause why he should not be punished and committed to prison.

(2) Contempt Ex Facie: (contempt outside the court)

  • This is contempt committed outside the court. This is disobedience to the lawful orders of the court. Constituting an obstruction to justice. when the court makes an order for a [person to carry out an action or refrain from conduct, failure to comply with the court order may be regarded as contempt. The court may invoke its powers and convict the offender of contempt. However, the procedure or process for this kind of contempt must be followed.
  • The Sheriff and Civil Process Act 2004, judgment enforcement rules and the rules of court provide the procedure for contempt proceedings.

Funmi Oderinde, a Legal Counsel/Associate at Citizens’ Gavel writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. She can be reached at

Edited by Taiwo Makanjuola, Communications Associate, Citizens’ Gavel. She can be reached at

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