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Attorney General vs. Morrision - (19 Sep 2022)

A court may punish contempt of court by committal of the contemnor to prison, or by imposing a fine on the contemnor

Contempt of Court

In present case, on 2 September 2022, present Court convicted the first contemnor, Robert Noel Morrison, (Mr. Morrison Snr.) and the second contemnor, Robert Frank Morrison (Mr. Morrison Jnr.), of contempt of court for the sale of a property in contravention of an undertaking given to the State Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal). Mr. Morrison Snr gave an undertaking to the Tribunal (the Undertaking) in the presence of his son, Mr. Morrison Jnr, to the effect that he would not in any way deal with the property at 146 Old Dairy Court, Oakford, Western Australia (the Property).

The Attorney General submitted that, the contempts committed by Mr. Morrison Snr. and Mr. Morrison Jnr.: (a) were serious because the conduct of the Morrisons was deliberate; (b) frustrated and complicated proceedings in the Tribunal; and (c) objectively benefitted the Morrisons. The Attorney General submitted that this court should impose a fine in respect of each of Mr. Morrison Snr and Mr. Morrison Jnr.

Order 55 Rule 7(1) of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1971 provides that a court may punish contempt of court by committal of the contemnor to prison, or by imposing a fine on the contemnor, or by both committal and fine. The purpose of punishment for contempt is to protect and uphold the undisturbed and orderly administration of justice in the courts according to law. There are two principal ways that sentencing for contempt may serve this purpose: first, by vindicating judicial authority by the imposition of a punitive sentence; and second, by coercing obedience to the court by the imposition of a remedial sentence.

The breach of the Undertaking occurred within a short period of time after it was given and seemingly without any thought to ever obeying the Undertaking. Given settlement of the Property occurred a day after the Undertaking was given, it is a serious contempt.

Mr. Morrison Snr. and Mr. Morrison Jnr. should each receive different fines. Normally parity would apply but, in this case, given the relatively better position of Mr. Morrison Jnr and his involvement in the transfer of the Property - at least in practical terms of sending emails and so forth - the fine imposed on him should be higher. An appropriate fine for Mr. Morrison Snr. is $7,500 and for Mr. Morrison Jnr is $10,000.


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