In the Magistrates’ Court at Bristol
12 November 2020
His Honour Judge Ralton
Bristol City Council
1. The claimant in this matter is Bristol City Council. The defendant is Ms Laura Pomictor. She was born on 20 August 1961, so if my mathematics is correct, she is now aged 59.
2. She has come to the attention of the City Council because of being drunk in public and engaging in abusive and aggressive behaviour, especially in East Street in Bedminster. On occasion, her behaviour has involved violence on her part, indeed a previous criminal behaviour order had been made against Ms Pomictor.
3. Bristol City Council therefore made an application for an injunction order under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and then an injunction order was made on 12 June 2020.
4. The orders were made by District Judge Rowe. Amongst other things, the district judge ordered Ms Pomictor that she is forbidden from acting in a manner which causes or is likely to cause nuisance, harassment, alarm or distress, being intoxicated within any public area in the city of Bristol as defined on the attached city map, verbally or physically abusing any person within Bristol.
5. Ms Pomictor has already been in breach of that injunction order and has been brought both before the criminal courts and the civil courts. The criminal courts in the form of Bristol Magistrates’ Courts were seized first of the matter, and it imposed on Ms Pomictor, a sentence of six weeks’ custody. When the matter came before the Civil court on 31 August of this year, the decision was made that no further penalty should be imposed on Ms Pomictor.
6. Today’s hearing derives from the events of 10 November 2020 – two days ago – at a Sainsbury’s store, being a smaller Sainsbury’s Local in Badminton Road. The evidence that is given to the court derives from mainly Ms Gemma Hobbs who works as a shop floor assistant at that particular shop, and thereafter evidence is also by PC Furlong.
7. It appears that Ms Pomictor attended the store in a drunk state, first sought tobacco, when told of the price, insulted the person on the till calling her: “A XXXXXXX XXXX”. The tobacco was duly put back.
8. She then appeared to try to obtain a bottle of Lambrini but had no money and the transaction was not completed, and then after giving trouble to the Sainsbury’s operative, Ms Pomictor then caused trouble to two gentlemen, one of whom was in a wheelchair. There was then a fracas involving Ms Pomictor and the two gentlemen, as was observed by PC Furlong.
9. Ms Pomictor was arrested, but to her credit as Mr Richardson has pointed out, she soon, thereafter, became remorseful. Ms Pomictor has admitted breach of the injunction order and she is entitled to credit for that – and I will address the matter of credit in due course – and I must proceed to sentence her.
10. My sentencing powers are limited to imposing no penalty, to impose custody for a period of up to two years which I can suspend, to fine or to sequester assets. There is no use in a case such as this in sequestering assets or imposing a fine, and I must consider what sort of sentence, if any, I should impose, and I am very grateful for the assistance of Mr Denford who has outlined the facts on behalf of the city council, and Mr Richardson who has spoken in mitigation on behalf of Ms Pomictor.
11. Firstly I remind myself of the approach of the Civil court. The Civil court’s approach is to secure compliance with its orders. That is of more importance to this court than the concept of punishment. However, a person who flouts an order of a civil court who has been warned by that order that if they flout the order, they will be in contempt of court, faces the obvious risk of imprisonment.
12. What do I know about Ms Pomictor? I have already referred to her age. Mr Richardson tells me that she does have an addiction to alcohol and has been addicted to other substances in the past. But since she was last before the Magistrates’ Courts when she received the custodial sentence of six weeks, there was a degree of stability.
13. She has been in contact with her supervising officer by reason of that sentence. Mr Richardson tells me that she accepts it was stupid behaviour on her part. He tells me that Ms Pomictor has no fixed address and appears to float from property to property.
14. With these points in mind, I draw attention to the following matters in particular. This was not a victimless incident. The victims in particular were the Sainsbury’s shop floor assistant, Ms Gemma Hobbs, and then the two gentlemen that I have referred to. Whilst I appreciate that alcohol addiction is a difficult problem to overcome, it does not necessarily follow that someone who is in drink must be abusive when they don’t get their own way.
15. I have come to the conclusion that this is a case where there needs to be a sentence, but a suspended sentence. In my judgement, given the seriousness of the events of 10 November and the fact that there were victims, but for the guilty plea I would have imposed a term of imprisonment of six weeks. By reason of the imposition of the guilty plea, I consider four weeks to be appropriate.
16. I am, however, going to suspend the sentence, and I am going to suspend it for a period of one year on compliance with the injunction order. The reason that I am suspending it is because of the remorse expressed, and because there is a degree of oversight taking place.
17. I do not know what sentence the Magistrates’ Courts will impose. I do know this, Ms Pomictor, that if you are brought back before the Civil court on the basis of further breaches which are either admitted by you or found by the court to have taken place, your prospects of keeping your freedom are going to be very slight indeed, and you are likely to find yourself going to prison, and it could be for an ever increasing length of time whether it is this court or the Magistrates’ Courts.
18. I can see that you are very upset today. I hope you are going to use this opportunity to try to engage in getting help for your addiction, and that we do not see you again. That concludes my judgment.