Committal for Contempt of Court: Bromford Housing Association Ltd -v- Michelle Jones

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Numbers: K01EC267, K00GL081

In the County Court at Gloucester and Cheltenham


District Judge Napier


Bromford Housing Association Ltd


Michelle Jones



  1. Miss Jones, you have admitted previously one breach of your Antisocial Behaviour Injunction and today you have admitted a second breach when you did not permit the Claimant unannounced access which it was entitled to under the order.  You have done so with the benefit of legal advice and therefore, based on your admitted breaches, I find you in contempt of court.
  2. The question then is what should the Court do? Unlike in the criminal courts, our objectives when we decide whether or not to impose a sentence, and if so what sentence to impose, are to ensure compliance with our orders first and foremost, then a level of punishment for the disobedience of the court’s order and the question of any rehabilitation, which I accept is a strong factor here.
  3. Looking at the sentencing guidelines, I agree this is what a Category B1 in terms of your culpability, the level of your guilt, I agree it is deliberate, but it not so high as to be high culpability Category A.  
  4. In terms of the harm, you clearly have a serious addiction to butane gas and the potential harm to other residents in the building is very serious and for that reason it is Category 1.  You stockpile large amounts of the gas within your property which is a substantial fire hazard and the Claimant’s own meter readings indicated the gas was present in its free state in your property.  That takes the Court to a starting point of a sentence of 3 months in custody. I then have to consider the various factors that make the sentence worse, or which might make the sentence better.
  5. The factors that make the sentence worse are as follows.  First of all, you have admitted breaching the condition that the Claimant, as I understand it before Deputy District Judge Davies, agreed to when it put a butane monitor into your property.  This was part of a proposal to the Court last time try and allow you to stay there, rather than impose an exclusion order from your own home. You actively took steps to cover up the monitor and prevent it from functioning.  The Claimant expended a substantial amount of money, I have to say more money than I ever would have expected a social housing provider to expend in proceedings such as these, in procuring the monitor to allow you to keep your home. 
  6. Second, as an aggravating factor, this is not your first breach.  You have been found in contempt before and were sentenced to a four-day suspended sentence by Deputy District Judge Sevier.
  7. Concerning the mitigating factors, quite clearly, whether or not you accept it, you are heavily addicted to butane gas.  I understand what that has meant in terms of the impact on your family. I can only imagine how awful it is to have that number of children removed, but it is very clear from all the photos that you have an addiction and I am pleased that you are now in accommodation that might help you address your illness. I bear in mind that there are very likely going to be mandatory possession proceedings now that you have been found in breach of your injunction.  Finally, I bear in mind it is very clear that you have significant mental health difficulties.
  8. For those reasons I take the view that the initial starting point of the sentence should stay at three months for both breaches. Concerning the butane possession, the very purpose of the order was that you were not to have butane canisters in your property and from the photos it is very clear that you had a huge number of them in the property. At the last hearing you told me that your position was that some of them were full and some of them were empty.  That is beside the point. The fact is that the court order was that you could not have them, even if they were empty or full and I am not sure which of the two is the worse.  Either they were full and could have been ignited, or they were empty and had been discharged into the property and could still have been ignited.
  9. In relation to the second breach, the failure to comply with the unannounced inspection, that also is serious, as I said earlier. The very purpose of the inspection regime was to allow the Claimant to assure themselves that you were not breaching the order and, although I accept what was said earlier as an explanation, the fact remains that you did not allow them access when they wanted to.
  10. So 3 months as the starting point in relation to the first breach. You admitted the breach at the first opportunity, therefore I will deduct approximately one third and that will give a sentence of 56 days. In relation to the second breach, you have admitted it today. I will make a deduction of around 10%.  So on the first breach it would be 56 days and then for the second breach 76 days concurrent.
  11. At this point I will set aside the suspended sentence of Deputy District Judge Sevier as it is better under the totality principle to deal with everything together.
  12. Last time you appeared you had spent two nights in custody, and before then you spent a night in custody before you saw Judge Sevier.  I give you credit for that, which comes to a total of six days, so that means the sentences will be for breach one 50 days and for breach two 70 days, both to run what is called concurrently, at the same time.
  13. I will suspend your sentence.  It is clear that you are engaging in rehabilitation. I do not see any benefit to sending you to prison today, although it was a very serious consideration when we see the level of breaches.  However, I must consider whether there are any reasonable alternatives to custody and clearly it is reasonable to suspend it, not only to try and ensure your compliance but to allow your rehabilitation to continue.
  14. For those reasons the sentence is 50 days and 70 days custody to be served concurrently. I will suspend it for the length of the Antisocial Behaviour Injunction and on the condition you comply with it.  That is until 24 April 2024.  If you breach that Antisocial Behaviour Injunction then you can expect to go to prison for the longer period of 70 days.  If you are committed to prison, you will serve half your sentence before being released.  That is the Court’s sentence.
  15. You have a right to appeal against this order and you do not have to seek permission to appeal. You have an appeal automatically as of right.  Further, I direct that a transcript of this sentencing is prepared at the public expense.