Mayor had intent for civil contempt, but acted on mistake of law and without contumacious intent

Judges and Courts - Contempt of court - Nature of offence

Town learned that mayor had distributed a binder containing its confidential information to various members of public. Town sued and obtained on consent an order for interim relief. Town now brought motion for civil contempt of court. Motion dismissed. Mayor did improperly breach order but court exercised discretion and declined making a finding of contempt of court. Mayor was never cross-examined on his affidavit. His averment that he did not intentionally disobey order was not challenged. He swore that it was his honest belief that issues covered in binder were not confidential as defined by order and were already well known to the public. As doctrine of reasonable doubt applied to issue of credibility, his unchallenged evidence raised such doubt. Therefore, while mayor had the intent for civil contempt, he acted on mistake of law and without contumacious intent.

Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville v. Altmann (2019), 2019 CarswellOnt 7446, 2019 ONSC 2974, S. Nakatsuru J. (Ont. S.C.J.).

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