Committal for Contempt of Court: Eastlight Community Homes Limited -v- Clements

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: J00CM581

In the Chelmsford County Court

12 January 2023

Before:
HHJ Duddridge

Between:
Eastlight Community Homes Limited
-v-
Joan-Anne Clements


Order

Case No J00CM581 Eastlight Community Homes Limited v Joan-Anne Clements

In relation to Case Number J00CM581, in the Chelmsford County Court, on 15 January 2023 at a hearing listed to consider the penalty for the contempt of court His Honour Judge Duddridge made no order against the Defendant, Joan-Anne Clements. The basis for that order is set out in the reasons that appear below and are recorded on the face of the order.

Reasons

  1. I have considered the guidance from the Court of Appeal set out in the recent decision in Lovett v Wigan BC [2022] EWCA and, in particular, the emphasis on the primary purpose of penalty for contempt being to secure future compliance with the order and the need for penalties for contempt to be proportionate.
  2. On 20 May 2022 I made an interim Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction against the Defendant pursuant to s.1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the Injunction”) to which a power of arrest was attached.
  3. On 20 June 2022, the Defendant was arrested and brought before HHJ Lochrane following alleged breaches of the Injunction. HHJ Lochrane adjourned that hearing to 1 July 2022. At that hearing, I made directions for a trial of the allegations of breach of the Injunction which was listed on 15 July 2022.
  4. The Defendant failed to attend the hearing on 15 July 2022. For reasons given in an ex tempore judgment, I decided to proceed in her absence and found that the Defendant had breached the Injunction by entering on 76 Colne Road, Sible Hedingham, Essex, CO9 3JP at 08:51 on 10 June 2022 and at 10:13 and 11:57 on 17 June 2022. I adjourned consideration of penalty to 21 September 2022 to be heard together with the application for the Injunction to be made final.
  5. The Defendant did not attend on 21 September 2022. The Injunction was made final and I adjourned consideration of penalty for the Defendant’s contempt further to 2 November 2022. I directed bailiff service of the notice of that hearing.
  6. The Defendant did not attend on 2 November 2022 but there was no evidence on the court file that the bailiff had served notice of the hearing on the Defendant. I further adjourned the hearing to today and again directed bailiff service. As a result of enquiries I have made today, I have been informed that the bailiff did serve the hearing notice on the Defendant in October 2022, but I have not seen written evidence of service.
  7. The Defendant has not attended today but there is no evidence on the court file that the bailiff has served notice of today’s hearing on her and I have not been informed that she was served with that notice.
  8. However, the breaches I found proved on 15 July 2022 were very minor breaches. They were not targeted at anybody and caused no direct harm. The complainant neighbour discovered them by viewing CCTV footage captured by her Ring doorbell which appeared to show the Defendant entering the neighbour’s land to clean her (the Defendant’s) window.
  9. As such, although I found the Defendant in contempt of court, the breaches in themselves are minor and at the very lowest end of the scale of gravity of breaches of an ASBI. They do not justify a custodial penalty. Whilst the Defendant’s failure to attend the hearings on 15 July 2022, 22 September 2022, 2nd November 2022 and today (if she is aware of the hearing) shows a lack of respect for the Court (if she had no good reason for not attending), that does not aggravate the breaches sufficiently to meet the custody threshold.
  10. On the other hand, the Defendant was arrested and brought before the Court for breach of the ASBI on 20 June 2022. There is no evidence of any further breaches since her arrest, a period of over 6 months. In the light of that, it may be that the arrest itself brought home to her the importance of complying with the Injunction and was sufficient to secure her compliance. In any event, given the passage of time without further breaches, a substantive penalty is not necessary and would be disproportionate at this stage. I have considered the alternative of adjourning generally with liberty to restore if the Defendant breaches the Injunction in future but I do not think that is necessary or proportionate for the same reasons. I am also mindful that the Defendant’s arrest was over 6 months ago and CPR 65.47(3) requires proceedings following an arrest to be disposed of within 28 days, albeit that was not achieved because the Defendant did not attend on 15 July 2022.
  11. It would be desirable for the Defendant to attend a hearing to consider penalty so that I or another Judge can speak to her directly about the importance of continuing to comply with the Injunction. However, her failure to attend today may be because the bailiff has not served her with notice of the hearing. Even if she has been served, I consider it would not be a proportionate use of the Court’s limited resources to list a further hearing, or to issue a warrant for her arrest to ensure her attendance, in view of my conclusion that no order would be the appropriate outcome in this case.
  12. However, the Defendant should be in no doubt that she is expected to comply with the Injunction fully in future, for so long as it remains in force.

HHJ DUDDRIDGE
12 JANUARY 2023