Case Number: H01MA607
Neutral Citation:  EWHC 2341 (Ch)
In the County Court of Manchester
22 June 2022
DISTRICT JUDGE IYER
FOR HOUSING LIMITED
(also known as JED KNIGHT)
THE DISTRICT JUDGE:
- This is a committal hearing against the defendant Mr Swallow for allegedly breaching an injunction against him in three respects. The recent version of the injunction was made on 11 March 2022 and it covered six heads:
- Nuisance and annoyance to residents of or visitors to Willowfold, Worsley Road in Eccles, and that is where there has been a flat of the defendant’s former partner Ms Knight;
- Abusive, insulting and threatening behaviour to residents and visitors;
- Communicating with Natasha Whitworth. Natasha Whitworth is a neighbour of Ms Knight;
- Using or threatening violence to residents and visitors; and
- Entering or attempting to enter the area in orange on an attached map which effectively included the Willowfold block.
- The allegations are that:
- On 5 September 2022, the defendant entered the exclusion zone;
- While in the flat of Ms Knight, he threatened her by saying that he threatened her to kick her baby out of her; and
- He shouted to neighbours that they should not contact the police.
These are apparent breaches of the various terms of the injunction.
- The defendant admits the first breach but denies the second and third. I heard evidence from Ms Whitworth and evidence from the defendant. I was also provided with email evidence of a complaint by Ms Knight to her GP of a bruise which she blamed the defendant for causing and also a report by her to a multidisciplinary agency designed for her protection that the defendant had caused the bruise that was seen on her on 5 September. Ms Knight, however, did not give evidence. These emails were disclosed to the defendant either today or yesterday, and he has had little notice of them. However, I listened to the evidence of the live witnesses carefully and bear in mind that it is for the claimant to prove the breaches on the criminal standard beyond reasonable doubt. That is a high standard to achieve.
- The evidence of Ms Whitworth was very clear and she admitted that she heard other things but it was when she heard the word “baby” that she became concerned. She said that she had seen Ms Knight sporting possible injuries in the past and she was very concerned about the safety of Ms Knight and the baby. She stressed that she had not spoken to Ms Knight and did not know whether or not she was pregnant. She also said that her lights were off and nobody would have known that she was in her flat.
- Under cross-examination, she was asked about an alleged inconsistency in her evidence, when she mentioned hearing objects (plural) smashed, whereas she later referred to a single object being banged around and pushed. She was not specifically asked whether she heard a particular object being smashed and broken. In the context of her hearing a frightening incident from her house, I am satisfied that any inconsistency about the number of objects and whether they were smashed or banged around are insignificant. I observe that the police, who attended on 5 September, do not describe any damaged property or injuries to Ms Knight’s face.
- I also note that Ms Knight is facing proceedings for possession of property, on grounds which might include inviting the Defendant to the property. One of her grounds for defending is that she is a victim of domestic violence and clearly, in one sense, it would help her to allege that the defendant had visited violence against her.
- But it would be irrational for Ms Knight invite the Defendant to the property on 5 May if she had already made up her mind to allege that he had committed acts of domestic violence, as this would undermine her defence. However, bearing in mind that she did not give evidence and there are a number of questions which might have been put to her, while I note in the allegations that there was found to be a bruise on her at some point (though I do not know when the bruise was first seen), I attach little weight to the email evidence of Ms Knight. I therefore concentrate on the evidence of Ms Whitworth and the defendant.
- I found Ms Whitworth to be an impressive witness. She gave her evidence clearly and she did not contradict herself or say anything which sounded implausible. It may very well be that there is some history of unpleasantness between her and the defendant. She said that she clearly heard the defendant threaten to “kick the baby out of you”, and the specificity of these words, particularly given that she did not know whether Ms Knight was pregnant, give her evidence additional credibility.
- The evidence of the defendant was, at times, inconsistent. One example related to his reason for going towards the property. He initially said that he was going to the property to recover his mobile phone which had been left at the property. But he also said that spoke to Ms Knight by telephone from a phone box and although they had not made an arrangement to meet, he decided to go there and happened to meet her outside a shop. He also said that when she met him outside the shop, she invited him back to the property. When he was questioned about that by Mr Bradbury, he said that he was not going to the property at all, he had not decided to go there, but was simply walking in that direction. This represents a very clear departure from his original evidence about deliberately going there.
- He then said that he was looking for keys to a lockup box which was not in that area, and he went into a public house before he met Ms Knight, to ask if anyone had seen this key. I found all of this very implausible and it appeared to be a manufactured excuse for being in the area.
- His evidence about Ms Knight inviting him back to the flat also was implausible and it was he who wanted somewhere to stay. He had been living rough, he said, for two days and for her to have invited him back and then to have invited him to stay for a pizza, and then to have invited him to stay for the night sounds particularly odd. She had already been out to the shop. One might have wondered why, if she wanted to feed him, she did not suggest purchasing some food while they were both out and near a shop, rather than raising this after returning to her house. That, again, sounded, implausible.
- Back at the flat, he says that absolutely nothing happened. There was no commotion and no fight. His explanation for why Ms Whitworth has said what she did was entire conjecture. He said that perhaps she is looking for financial gain. He also said that, “She does not like me.” He made allegations that she has committed threats and acts of violence to him in the past and that she has lied but when pressed, he revealed that the alleged lies by Ms Whitworth were not within the post-injunction proceedings but were part of the evidence in support of the application for an injunction. He did not satisfactorily explain why he did not challenge such evidence at the time. He claimed that he simply “forgot” or “did not attend the hearing” but, despite having solicitors acting for him and attending multiple court hearings, he failed to explain why he did not subsequently ask for the injunction to be varied, particularly if Ms Knight was very happy for him visit the property. His explanation for Ms Knight’s email allegations against him was made very quickly. I have already said, I do not attach much weight to the email but his response to it sounded suspicious and implausible.
- I find his evidence implausible, inconsistent, as I have explained, particularly against the background of somebody who has on no less than, I think, eleven occasions breached or has been arrested in respect of alleged breaches of the injunction and the exclusion zone. It is clear to me that the defendant has very little regard to the importance of the court order and I find that such a person is less likely to be credible than Ms Whitworth. For all of these reasons, I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the allegation by Ms Whitworth about what he said, allegations 2 and 3, are proved.
- I am satisfied, after having heard submissions, that this is a culpability A, category 1 breach of injunction. This is behaviour which can be said to be serious. The two threats were serious. There has been a persistent breach of injunctions. I am also satisfied that the breach demonstrates a continuing risk of serious criminal or antisocial behaviour and I am particularly concerned at the elevation between what was previously simply breaching the exclusion zone to now issuing threats. I remind myself that this is threats and not actual violence.
- I repeat that for the purposes of my fact-finding, I attach very little weight to the emails. For the purpose of the sentencing, I do not attach any weight to the emails. Nevertheless, threats were made against both Ms Knight and against anyone who might choose to report. The aggravating factor there is the attempt to dissuade any witnesses from coming forward. I have to be careful about treating the persistence of the breaches as aggravating as well which it certainly is because that is part of the culpability ground but I take into account that that has been continuing. I bear in mind also that the defendant had come out of prison and had been living homeless for two days. There can be little doubt he did not have a mobile phone and there may have been some element of that though my finding is that he went to the property because he had little regard for the injunction.
- Taking all these factors into account, also taking into account the fact that Ms Knight is the subject of possession proceedings and it may very well be that the opportunity for the defendant to breach this injunction might not continue very much longer, the appropriate sentence, in my view, is six months immediate custody.
- As to the injunction, I am minded to extend the injunction. We have no idea about what will happen at the possession proceedings and the injunction should be extended for one year from today.