R. c. Marion, 2020 QCCQ 6715, per Galiatsatos, J.C.Q., at paragraphs 25 to 29 [translation]:
At common law, provincial court judges have the inherent jurisdiction to punish for contempt of court, provided that it is committed in facie.
That power is intended to ensure the orderly conduct of the proceedings and to protect the integrity of the process.
It must be used with restraint.
In the normal course, a three-step summary process is followed:
- The judge who witnesses conduct potentially constituting contempt of court cites the perpetrator to appear to respond to the charge, informs him or her of the right to counsel, and sets a date for the hearing;
- The accused may then provide an explanation or apologize to purge the contempt. Although the judge must consider those explanations and apologies, he or she is not obliged to accept them. In other words, providing an apology – even a sincere one – after taking a step back will not automatically absolve the person cited. At the end of the hearing in question, the judge decides whether the evidence establishes the guilt of the person cited beyond a reasonable doubt.
- If the person is convicted of contempt of court, natural justice requires that he or she be given the opportunity to make submissions on sentencing. At this stage, a sincere apology may constitute a mitigating factor.
The actus reus of contempt of court consists of conduct that seriously interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice or conduct that causes a serious risk of interference or obstruction with the administration of justice. The fault requirement calls for deliberate or intentional conduct, or conduct which demonstrates indifference akin to recklessness. The mens rea may consist of the intention to depreciate the authority of the court.