A proposed new law of contempt, setting boundaries for what can and can't be said by the media, particularly social media, about defendants, trials and judges is going to be examined by Parliament.

One of the most controversial parts of the bill is likely to be penalties for making untrue allegations against judges, which will attract a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years imprisonment.

Some abuse of judges was calculated to intimidate judges individually or collectively, said the bill's sponsor, former Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

"Such abuse is capable of undermining the rule of law. Judicial independence and impartiality is at the heart of the rule of law."

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Ironically the issue of contempt laws, which has concerned Finlayson for more than 10 years, is set to make progress only because he is in Opposition.

The previous National Government commissioned the Law Commission to look at the law of contempt. It came up with plenty of recommendations and a draft bill to implement them.

I think there is a danger in our system that we become obsessed when looking at justice questions with 'law and order' type issues and we don't look at the other areas that are so fundamental to the efficient and successful running of our state

But Finlayson was unable to convince the Ministry of Justice to make it a legislative priority so it languished.

So in Opposition Finlayson adopted the Law Commission's bill as his own private member's bill - which was recently drawn from the biscuit tin in the regular ballots for members' bills.

And Justice Minister Andrew Little will seek the support of his Cabinet colleagues to adopt it as a government bill after it passes its first reading, which is likely to be next week.

"Now that it has been drawn and has to be considered, we might as well do it properly," Little said.

The law of contempt is currently based in a mix of statutes and in case law.

The Administration of Justice (Reform of Contempt of Court) Bill will set those laws out in one place and come up with rules that will apply equally to mainstream media, and people commenting or blogging, tweeting or posting publicly through social media on the courts.

It will also cover disruptions in court, jurors who breach the rules by doing their own independent research, the enforcement of court orders, and malicious attacks on judges.

"I want to get this thing properly debated for the sake of the system," said Finlayson.

"I've invested 10 years of effort in this and I don't want to leave this place until that is sorted out," he said.

A lot of the time, people did not know what the boundaries were, including tweeters sitting in the back of a courtroom.

"Let's get the rules straight so everyone knows what the law should be," he said.

"I think there is a danger in our system that we become obsessed when looking at justice questions with 'law and order' type issues and we don't look at the other areas that are so fundamental to the efficient and successful running of our state."

One of the issues on which he expected there would be debate was on criticism of judges.

Judges should not be immune from criticism for their decisions, he said.

"I'm not concerned about judges being criticised for their judgments but I am concerned about the abuse of judges and the attempts to intimidate judges, be it individually or collectively.

"Fair criticism is different from abuse."

The aim of the bill was to make sure the boundaries were clear and people knew what they can and cannot do.

Little has some concerns about what limitations are put on the criticism of judges.

He is also opposed to making it an offence for jurors to research cases (beyond the evidence they hear in court) punishable by up to three months in prison or a $10,000 fine.

"Most jurors get a pittance as a substitute for their wages. Most are reluctant to be there and they are doing it out of a civic duty," he said.

"A better balance needs to be struck but that can be dealt with at select committee."

What the bill does:
• A person or organisation commits an offence if it publishes information that could prejudice an arrested person's right to a fair trial, and is liable for up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $25,000 for an individual or $100,000 for an organisation.
• Publishing untrue accusations against a judge punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine for individuals and $100,000 for organisations.
• A person wilfully disrupting court proceedings may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
• A person disobeying a court order may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
• A juror convicted of intentionally researching information relevant to the case is liable for a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to three months.