Committal for Contempt of Court: Gray

CivilCounty CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Claim No: H00SN334





1. On 7 January 2022 this Court made an Injunction Order (‘the order’) under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (‘the Act’) against the Defendant. The Defendant did not attend the hearing. The Defendant was, at the time of the hearing, on remand at HMP Bristol. The Defendant was personally served with the application documents on 31 December 2021 (at HMP Bristol) and with the order on 30 March 2022.
2. The order contained a number of provisions, some of which have a power of arrest attached.
3. Provision 2 of the order (to which a power of arrest is attached) prohibited the Defendant from allowing:
“Michelle Adams, Kathleen Shiel or any other person identifiable as a “sex worker” to enter or be in 108 Rodbourne Road, Swindon, SN2 1DJ.”
4. At approximately 1:50am on 11 April 2022 Wiltshire Police attended the aforementioned 108 Rodbourne Road whereby they found a Tanya Lacey to be present in the property with the Defendant. Ms Lacey is known by Wiltshire Police to be a sex worker. The Defendant was arrested.
5. Accordingly, the alleged breach is that:
“At 1:50am on 11 April 2022 the Defendant permitted Tanya Lacey, a known sex worker, to be in 108 Rodbourne Road, Swindon, SN2 1DJcontrary to provision 2 of the Order of 7 January 2022.”
6. The matter first came before me at approximately 12:45pm on 11 April 2022 whereby Mr Bigwood (a solicitor within the Claimant’s in-house legal department) appeared for the Claimant and Mr Lowry (a legal representative from the Wiltshire Law Centre) appeared for the Defendant. Both appeared via MS Teams. At this stage Mr Lowry had been unable to speak to the Defendant and had not had sight of the relevant paperwork. I therefore adjourned the matter until 4pm on the same date.
7. At 4pm the above mentioned representative returned to the hearing on MS Teams and the Defendant also joined, via MS Teams, from police custody.
8. The Claimant set out:
a. That the order had been granted in the Defendant’s absence; and
b. That the order extended the period permitted to file an appellants notice as a result of the non-attendance; and
c. That the order reminded the Defendant of his right under section 8 of the Act to seek the variation or discharge of the order; and
d. The alleged breach (as set out at paragraph 5).
9. It was advanced on the part of the Defendant that the wording of provision 2 of the order was potentially ambiguous as it did not set out who must be able to identify any person as a sex worker. It was stated that such a wording would either require the Defendant to ask every visitor whether they were a sex worker, which would likely cause offence, or contact the police to essentially ‘vet’ any visitor before allowing them into his property.
10. The Claimant accepted this assertion and made the following submissions:
a. The wording of provision 2 created, in effect, a strict liability provision
b. If the Defendant was minded to accept the breach the Claimant would not oppose a variation to amend provision 2 so as to require the Defendant to know or believe any person is a “sex worker” and to include Ms Lacey on the express list of named persons; and
c. Given the submission made on behalf of the Defendant the Claimant would not consider the custody threshold to have been met and would not be asking the Court for any sentence to be imposed for the breach.
11. The Defendant accepted this and admitted the breach.
12. Accordingly, having considered the Defendant’s admission and the evidence contained within the witness statements I find that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the Defendant did breach the order in the manner set out at paragraph 5.
13. I then turned to sentence and was referred, within the bundle prepared by the Claimant, to the sentencing guidelines for breach of a criminal behaviour order.
14. I put the culpability at Culpability C on the basis that the Defendant was unaware of Ms Lacey’s purported occupation as a sex worker and as such this is a minor breach and falls just short of reasonable excuse.
15. I put harm at Category 3. There is no evidence that the breach has caused any harm or distress to any persons.
16. The Claimant agreed with this assessment.
17. This therefore provides a starting point of a medium level community order (something which clearly falls outside the sentencing powers of this Court) with a sentencing range of a Band B fine through to a high level community order.
18. The following facts in mitigation were considered:
a. This was the first breach;
b. No distress or alarm was seemingly caused to any other person;
c. The Defendant had spent over 12 hours in police custody;
d. Provision 2 was less than ideally worded.
19. Accordingly it was determined that there be no sentence imposed for the breach.
20. I further ordered that the order (and associated power of arrest) be varied as proposed by the Claimant.