Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Purge Definition:

To apologize or the taking of such other action as may be deemed by a court of law to suffice for the purposes of vacating a charge of contempt of court.

Related Terms: Contempt of Court, Contemnor

In Labour Relations Board v Daschuk Lumber, Justice Culliton of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal wrote:

"The general practice is that a person in contempt is usually relieved from the consequences of that contempt when he purges himself of the contempt by doing that which he neglected or wilfully refused to do. Whether or not that general practice is made applicable in a particular case lies with the discretion of the judge disposing of the application."

In Sussex Group, Justice Cumming of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice wrote:

"[E]ven if the contemptuous acts have ceased, or the contemnor has purged his contempt, the Court still retains jurisdiction to consider and punish for contempt. The cessation or purging of contempt is merely a mitigating factor relevant in a consideration of the appropriate sanction."

The following is an example of a purge clause in a family law judgment:

"THIS COURT ORDERS that in order to purge his contempt, the Respondent shall return the child of the marriage to Toronto, Ontario, Canada forthwith. As well the Respondent shall appear before me on January 17, 1997 at 10:00 a.m. so that this matter may be reviewed based on the current facts."1

In US v Perry, Justice Selya of the United States Court of Appeals noted that an lower level judge had given the individual in contempt an opportunity to:

"... purge himself of contempt by giving him an opportunity to apologize and to agree that he would behave more appropriately in the courtroom.... Purge is a term more appropriately associated with civil, not criminal contempt.... Punishment for criminal contempt ... is punitive and imposed to vindicate the authority of the court. Purging is neither permitted nor possible."


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