Four centuries ago, when lawyer Edward Floyde insulted the King of England's children, he was sentenced to ride backwards on a horse without a saddle across London, a 'K' was branded on his forehead and he was fined GBP5,000 and imprisoned for life. Floyde had been found guilty of contempt of Parliament. Today, contempt of Parliament generally attracts less onerous penalties but, as the Canadian government found to its cost in 2011, misleading Parliament can have unforeseen consequences. The Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Peter Milliken - the author of the foreword to this book - declared the government in contempt, and it fell on a motion of no confidence. It was the first time that a common law government had been toppled by the ancient laws on contempt of Parliament. This book, by Irish barrister Kieron Wood, looks at the long history of Parliamentary privilege, considers the sort of actions that constitute contempt of Parliament - from protests in the chamber to fights between Members - examines the rights of common law Parliaments to decide their own privileges, and scrutinises the punishments that may be imposed for contempt and the proposals for change.
Kieron Wood, barrister-at-law, is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. His published books include The High Court - A User's Guide, The Kilkenny Incest Case and Divorce in Ireland (as co-author). His website is at
* Introduction * The History of Parliamentary Privilege * How do Parliaments Define Contempt? * What Sort of Actions Constitute Contempt of Parliament? * Violence in Parliament * The Privileges of Parliament *"Proceedings" in Parliament * The Difference Between Contempt of Court and Contempt of Parliament * Is Breach of Privilege the Same as Contempt of Parliament? * Does Parliament have the Right to Decide and Uphold its own Privileges? * Review and Codification of Parliamentary Privileges * Is Mens Rea Required for Contempt of Parliament? * What Punishments May Parliament Impose for Contempt? * Criticism of the Powers of Parliament to Punish for Contempt * Can the Courts Override Parliament's Rulings on Privilege? * Contempt of Parliament by Strangers * Who Decides whether Behaviour Constitutes Contempt of Parliament? * Breach of Standing Orders of the Irish Parliament * Contempt of Parliament in Common Law Jurisdictions * Report on Contempt in Common Law Parliaments * Proposals for Change