Committal for Contempt of Court: Bristol City Council -v- Lee Hardwell

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: J0BS273

In the Bristol County Court

6 July 2023


District Judge Webb


Bristol City Council


Lee Hardwell



  1. Before me today I have the case of Bristol City Council and Lee Hardwell. The hearing today is to consider committal due to a proven breach of an injunction made under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The factual background to this is that an injunction was made in December 2022 at a hearing Mr Hardwell did not attend.  The matter came back before Deputy District Judge Gibson on 2 February 2023 and the judge made the injunction final.
  2. The injunction includes terms requiring Mr Hardwell not to be in possession of an offensive weapon, not to communicate with Emma Hooper and not to engage in behaviour which will cause or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person, this provision includes, but is not limited to threats of violence. The initial statements which provided the evidential basis of the injunction describe very serious antisocial behaviour, including being in a public place with a machete. As the application was uncontested I move forward on the basis that all the facts as alleged in the initial application were established to be accurate.
  3. What I must now is focus in on the breach of this order.  The history of that is that on 9 March Mr Hardwell was outside his property shouting phrases including “Do I look like a fucking prick?  Fuck this, fuck that and fuck him”.  The witness who was Ms Hooper described herself as feeling alarmed and in fear.
  4. That breach was proved in Mr Hardwell’s absence by District Judge Markland and Mr Hardwell now appears for committal in relation to that one proven breach.
  5. The Court of Appeal in the case of Lovett v Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council [2022] EWCA Civ 1631,  confirmed that objective of sentencing is based on the three principles of ensuring future compliance with the order, punishment an rehabilitation.
  6. In Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Crosland [2021] UKSC 15 at paragraph 44. The Supreme Court provided further guidance as to the approach to be taken to contempt. This is a case involving criminal contempt, not civil contempt however the position is similar. The guidance given is that the Court should assess the seriousness of the conduct by reference to the culpability and the harm caused, in light of the determination of seriousness the Court must first consider whether a fine would be a sufficient penalty. If the contempt is so serious that only a custodial penalty will suffice, the Court must impose the shortest period of imprisonment which properly reflects the seriousness of the contempt. Due weight should be given to matters in mitigation such as genuine remorse, previous positive character in such matters.  Due weight should also be given to the impact of committal on persons other than the contemnor such as children or vulnerable adults. There should be a reduction for an early guilty plea and once the appropriate term has been arrived consideration should be given to suspending the term of imprisonment.
  7. There are no finalised guidelines in this matter but in the case of Lovett the draft guidelines prepared by the Civil Justice Council were supported and that divides these cases into categories. Category A cases reflecting high culpability and being a very serious breach or persistent serious breaches; Category B being deliberate breaches falling between (A) and (C), and Category C breaches representing low culpability, minor breaches or a breach.  I then have to look at the level of harm, Category 1 representing serious harm or distress, Category 2 cases below that; Category 3 representing breaches causing little or no harm or distress.
  8. The harm impact is relatively straightforward to assess; Ms Hudson will be significantly affected by these incidents because of the background. Which led to the making of the initial injunction.  She described herself as feeling alarmed and afraid. It is possible to imagine more serious breaches then this one incident causing a more significant degree of fear and as such appears to me this is a classic Category 2 case. The category in terms of the culpability seems to be uncertain in the sense I do not understand whether Mr Hardwell was being provoked by others, whether he is a victim of others’ antisocial behaviour or whether he gets drawn into disputes with others, it appears to me that I cannot possibly find this is a lower culpability as this is a repetition of significantly anti-social behaviour but this does appear to be a deliberate breach but with a lesser element and so I find it to be a Category B.
  9. This brings me to, according to the sentencing matrix, to a starting point of one month in custody.  I can mitigate and aggravate further. What aggravates is a fact that this appears against the basis of previous problems. What mitigates is this is a sole and single breach as far as what is before the Court today. Neither of these factors thus move me from the one month starting point.
  10. I then look at the background of this matter. Mr Hardwell is facing matters in the criminal court, I know not what the outcome of that will be.  It is suggested there are others breaches, I know not what the outcome will be, but it appears to me that this is a case where I should, firstly mark the seriousness of what has happened and two, recognise that the purpose of sentencing for a first breach is usually to stop it happening again and in those circumstances it appears to me that I say this case merits a month in custody because the fear caused to neighbours but  I am able to suspend that sentence on the basis that the suspended sentence is a deterrent which reduces significantly the risk of this reoccurring. Therefore, my sentence is one month in custody, I will say 30 days, this makes it easier rather than a month, 30 days in custody suspended for a period of six months on the basis that you comply with the terms of the injunction.
  11. I am told you are trying to rebuild your life and if that is the true circumstances you should be entitled to try to do so as long as you do not make your neighbours’ life hell as such that is the sentence of this Court, 30 days in custody suspended for a period of six months, the terms of the suspension being compliance with the injunction as it presently stands.