This chapter sets out the general rules and guidelines for dealing with matters of privilege and contempt.
Privilege (previously standing order 71)
276. Upon a matter of privilege arising:
(a) a Member shall give written notice of the alleged breach to the Speaker as soon as reasonably practicable after the matter has come to that Member’s attention;
(b) if the matter arises from a statement published in a newspaper, book or other publication, the Member shall provide the Speaker with a copy of the newspaper, book or publication;
(c) the Speaker will determine as soon as practicable whether or not the matter merits precedence over other business;
(d) if, in the opinion of the Speaker, the matter does not merit precedence, the Speaker will inform the Member, in writing, accordingly, and may also inform the Assembly of the decision; and
(e) if, in the opinion of the Speaker, the matter merits precedence, the Speaker will inform the Member who raised the matter and the Assembly of the decision, and the Member who raised the matter may move a motion without notice forthwith to refer the matter to a select committee appointed by the Assembly for that purpose. (Amended 9 March 1995 and 6 March 2008).
Contempt – Matters constituting contempt
277. Without derogating from its power to determine that particular acts constitute a contempt, the Assembly declares, as a matter of general guidance, that breaches of the following prohibitions, and attempts or conspiracies to do the prohibited acts, may be treated by the Assembly as a contempt.
(a) Interference with the Assembly
A person shall not improperly interfere with the free exercise by the Assembly or a committee of its authority, or with the free performance by a Member of the Member’s duties as a Member.
(b) Improper influence of Member
A person shall not, by fraud, intimidation, force or threat of any kind, by the offer or promise of any inducement or benefit of any kind, or by other improper means, influence a Member in the Member’s conduct as a Member or induce a Member to be absent from the Assembly or a committee.
(c) Members seeking benefits etc
A Member shall not ask for, receive or obtain, any property or benefit for the Member, or another person, on any understanding that the Member will be influenced in the discharge of the Member’s duties, or enter into any contract, understanding or arrangement having the effect, or which may have the effect, of controlling or limiting the Member’s independence or freedom of action as a Member, or pursuant to which the Member is in any way to act as the representative of any outside body in the discharge of the Member’s duties.
(d) Molestation of Members
A person shall not inflict any punishment, penalty or injury upon, or deprive of any benefit, on a Member on account of the Member’s conduct as a Member.
(e) Disturbance of the Assembly
A person shall not willfully disturb the Assembly or a committee while it is meeting, or willfully engage in any disorderly conduct in the precincts of the Assembly or a committee tending to disturb its proceedings.
(f) Service of writs etc
A person shall not serve or execute any criminal or civil process in the precincts of the Assembly on a day on which the Assembly meets except with the consent of the Assembly or of a person authorised by the Assembly to give such consent.
(g) False reports of proceedings
A person shall not willfully publish any false or misleading report of the proceedings of the Assembly or of a committee.
(h) Disobedience of orders
A person shall not, without reasonable excuse, disobey a lawful order of the Assembly or of a committee.
(i) Obstruction of orders
A person shall not interfere with or obstruct another person who is carrying out a lawful order of the Assembly or of a committee.
(j) Interference with witnesses
A person shall not, by fraud, intimidation, force or threat of any kind, by the offer or promise of any inducement or benefit of any kind, or by other improper means, influence another person in respect of any evidence given or to be given before the Assembly or a committee, or induce another person to refrain from giving such evidence.
(k) Molestation of witnesses
A person shall not inflict any penalty or injury upon, or deprive of any benefit, another person on account of any evidence given or to be given before the Assembly or a committee.
(l) Offences by witnesses etc
A witness before the Assembly or a committee shall not:
(i) without reasonable excuse, refuse to make an oath or affirmation or give some similar undertaking to tell the truth when required to do so;
(ii) without reasonable excuse, refuse to answer any relevant question put to the witness when required to do so; or
(iii) give any evidence which the witness knows to be false or misleading in a material particular, or which the witness does not believe on reasonable grounds to be true or substantially true in every material particular.
(m) A person shall not, without reasonable excuse:
(i) refuse or fail to attend before the Assembly or a committee when ordered to do so; or
(ii) refuse or fail to produce documents, or to allow the inspection of documents, in accordance with an order of the Assembly or of a committee.
(n) A person shall not willfully avoid service of an order of the Assembly or of a committee.
(o) A person shall not destroy, damage, forge or falsify any document required to be produced by the Assembly or by a committee.
(p) Unauthorised disclosure of evidence etc
A person shall not, without the authority of the Assembly or a committee, publish or disclose:
(i) a document that has been prepared for the purpose of submission, and submitted, to the Assembly or a committee and has been directed by the Assembly or a committee to be treated as evidence taken in private session or as a document confidential to the Assembly or the committee;
(ii) any oral evidence taken by the Assembly or a committee in private session, or a report of any such oral evidence; or
(iii) any proceedings in private session of the Assembly or a committee or any report of such proceedings;
unless the Assembly or a committee has published, or authorised the publication of, that document, that oral evidence or a report of those proceedings. (Inserted 6 March 2008)
Contempt – Criteria to be taken into account when dealing with matters of contempt
278. The Assembly will take into account the following criteria when determining whether matters possibly involving contempt should be referred to a Select Committee on Privilege and whether a contempt has been committed, and requires the committee to take these criteria into account when inquiring into any matter referred to it:
(a) the principle that the Assembly’s power to adjudge and deal with contempts should be used only where it is necessary to provide reasonable protection for the Assembly and its committees and for Members against improper acts tending substantially to obstruct them in the performance of their functions, and should not be used in respect of matters which appear to be of a trivial nature or unworthy of the attention of the Assembly;
(b) the existence of any remedy other than that power for any act which may be held to be a contempt; and
(c) whether a person who committed any act which may be held to be a contempt:
(i) knowingly committed that act, or
(ii) had any reasonable excuse for the commission of that act. (Inserted 6 March 2008)
Privilege – Criteria to be taken into account by the Speaker in determining whether a matter of privilege should be given precedence over other business
279. In determining whether a matter of privilege merits precedence over other business the Speaker shall have regard only to the following criteria:
(a) the principle that the Assembly’s power to adjudge and deal with contempts should be used only where it is necessary to provide reasonable protection for the Assembly and its committees and for Members against improper acts tending substantially to obstruct them in the performance of their functions, and should not be used in respect of matters which appear to be of a trivial nature or unworthy of the attention of the Assembly; and
(b) the existence of any remedy other than that power for any act which may be held to be a contempt. (Inserted 6 March 2008)
Procedures for the protection of witnesses before a Privileges Committee
280. In considering any matter referred to it which may involve, or gives rise to any allegation of, a contempt, a committee dealing with a matter of privilege that has been referred to it by the Assembly shall observe these procedures, in addition to the procedures set out in standing order 264A. Where this standing order is inconsistent with the procedures in standing order 264A this standing order shall prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.
(a) A person shall, as soon as practicable, be informed, in writing, of the nature of any allegations, known to the committee and relevant to the committee’s inquiry, against the person, and of the particulars of any evidence which has been given in respect of the person.
(b) The committee shall extend to that person all reasonable opportunity to respond to such allegations and evidence by:
(i) making written submission to the committee;
(ii) giving evidence before the committee;
(iii) having other evidence placed before the committee; and
(iv) having witnesses examined before the committee.
(c) Where oral evidence is given containing any allegation against, or reflecting adversely on, a person, the committee shall ensure as far as possible that that person is present during the hearing of that evidence, and shall afford all reasonable opportunity for that person to examine witnesses in relation to that evidence.
(d) A person appearing before the committee may be accompanied by counsel, and shall be given all reasonable opportunity to consult counsel during that appearance.
(e) A witness shall not be required to answer in public session any question where the committee has reason to believe that the answer may incriminate the witness.
(f) Hearing of evidence by the committee shall be conducted in public session, except where:
(i) the committee accedes to a request by a witness that the evidence of that witness be heard in private session;
(ii) the committee determines that the interests of a witness would best be protected by hearing evidence in private session; or
(iii) the committee considers that circumstances are otherwise such as to warrant the hearing of evidence in private session.
(g) As soon as practicable after the committee has determined findings to be included in the committee’s report to the Assembly, and prior to the presentation of the report, a person affected by those findings shall be acquainted with the findings and afforded all reasonable opportunity to make submissions to the committee, in writing and orally, on those findings. The committee shall take such submissions into account before making its report to the Assembly.
(h) Before appearing before the committee a witness shall be given a copy of this standing order. (Inserted 6 March 2008)