Case No: F00KH174
In the County Court at Kingston-upon-Hull
31 October 2019
Her Honour Judge Richardson
Places for People
IN THE COUNTY COURT AT KINGSTON-UPON-HULL
IN THE MATTER OF AN APPLICATION BY PLACES FOR PEOPLE TO COMMIT MICHAEL HOLDEN TO PRISON FOR CONTEMPT OF COURT
Case No: F00KH174
Thursday, 31st October 2019
HER HONOUR JUDGE RICHARDSON
B E T W E E N:
PLACES FOR PEOPLE HOMES LIMITED
MR MARCUS appeared on behalf of the Claimant
NO APPEARANCE by or on behalf of the Defendant
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- The proceedings before the court are committal proceedings brought by Places for People Homes Limited against Mr Michael Holden within claim number F00KH174.
- Mr Holden is the partner of Alison Ports who is currently a tenant of a property in York Road, Hull. On 8 April 2019, a without notice injunction was made against Mr Holden on application by Places for People. That application, for the injunctive relief, was supported by evidence from neighbours of Mr Holden, in particular Kathy Holmes, Malcolm Rimmer, and Patricia Rimmer. They have reported a catalogue of incidents of aggressive, threatening, and highly intimidating behaviour on the part of Mr Holden against themselves.
- The without notice order was made final at a hearing at which Mr Holden attended on 31 May 2019. That order was made by Deputy District Judge Armitage as he then was, and it is noted on the face of the order that by agreement, but without any admission of liability on the part of Mr Holden, the order would continue until 4pm on 8 January 2020. Mr Holden was also ordered to pay the claimant’s costs in the sum of £308.
- That, however, was not an end to matters. Mr Holden was arrested and brought before this court on 19 June 2019 following allegations that he had breached the injunction order. The injunction order prohibits Mr Holden from using or threatening to use violence, or harassing, of using abusive, insulting, or threatening behaviour towards Kathy Holmes, Patricia Rimmer, and Malcolm Rimmer and/or any person residing, visiting, or otherwise engaging in lawful activity in York Road, Hull HU6 9QT. There are further paragraphs to the injunction, curtailing Mr Holden’s behaviour in relation to any visitors to York Road or to any persons engaging in lawful activity within York Road. However, the allegations of breach which resulted in the arrest and production of Mr Holden on 19 June related to allegations that Mr Holden had breached paragraph one of the injunction, namely not to use or threaten to use violence or harassing, or using abusive, insulting, or threatening behaviour towards Kathy Holmes, Patricia Rimmer, and Malcolm Rimmer.
- On 19 June, when Mr Holden was brought before the court, there was, at that juncture, one allegation of breach. That allegation of breach was an allegation that on 7 May 2019, at about 12 noon, Mr Holden shouted the following words at Malcolm Rimmer, ‘What the f*** are you looking at, you f****** grass?’ It is then said that Mr Holden took a step closer to Mr Rimmer in an aggressive manner and as Mr Rimmer walked away towards his gate, Mr Holden continued to hurl abuse, including using the phrase, ‘f****** grass’. It is also alleged that Mr Holden shouted, ‘F*** off’, at Mrs Rimmer.
- Mr Holden was brought before this court at about three o’clock on the afternoon of 19 June. He was, as it happened, brought before me. I explained the nature of the application that he had been arrested at that juncture for breach of the injunction because a power of arrest was, amongst other provisions, added to paragraph one of the injunction order. I explained to him that any allegation of breach would need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, I explained to him that he had right to silence, and a right not to incriminate himself, and asked him if he wished to seek legal advice. He indicated that he did. He indicated that he strongly refuted any allegation that he had breached the injunction order, and that he intended to defend any such allegations. I provided him with a document to hand to any perspective solicitors explaining to such solicitors that these were civil proceedings dealing with an allegation of breach, and were therefore committal proceedings, and explaining to the solicitors that Mr Holden would be entitled to Legal Aid and referring them to the relevant authority, just in case there were any problems obtaining Legal Aid for him.
- It is alleged that following that court hearing, at about twenty to five on the afternoon of 19 June, Mr Holden breached paragraph one of the injunction for a second time. The allegation is that at about that time, on that date, Mr Holden drove past the property of Mr and Mrs Rimmer, very slowly, and he shouted words at them including the words, ‘You f****** grass’.
- The committal proceedings, and I use that term to encompass both the arrest and the subsequent committal proceedings that were issued by the claimant pursuant to Part 81 of the Civil Procedure Rules, came back for hearing before this court on 3 July. Mr Holden did not attend that hearing. He had been remanded on bail by this court on 19 June and he had been told, very clearly, that he should attend court on the next occasion. He chose not to do so and has subsequently absented himself from every further hearing in relation to the committal proceedings.
- By an order made on 3 July, I dispensed with the requirement for affidavit evidence, directed that the claimant should file and serve a committal application and an updated schedule of allegations, and provided for the defendant to file witness evidence if he so chose.
- The matter was listed for a hearing on 16 August of this year when the claimant was represented and the claimant’s witnesses attended, but Mr Holden did not. On that date, it was apparent that Mr Holden had not been personally served with the application for committal to prison. There was also evidence provided to the court that there had been several attempts at personal service on the part of the claimant/applicant without success, and the court was satisfied, on that date, that Mr Holden had been seeking to evade personal service of the committal proceedings, and as such made an order for substituted service of the application, the schedule of breach, the evidence in support, and any further orders of the court. The matter was adjourned to 19 September and the respondent was reminded of his right to remain silent, of his right against self-incrimination, and that he may qualify for Legal Aid.
- The matter came back before Mr Recorder Goldberg, on 19 September of this year. Again, Mr Holden did not attend. Recorder Goldberg was not satisfied that the applicant had complied with the precise terms of the order for substituted service made on the previous occasion, 16 August. As such a further order was made for substituted service of the contents of the trial bundle, and the order of the Recorder, by insertion through the letterbox at 86 York Road, Hull. The matter was listed, initially, for hearing at 2pm today, 31 October 2019. The start time of the hearing was moved to 10.30Aam by order dated 7 October. That order was also served by the Applicant in accordance with the Order for substituted service by insertion through the letterbox at 86 York Road, Hull. It was inserted on 12 October and deemed served on 14 October. I am therefore satisfied that Mr Holden has been given due notice and service, not only of today’s hearing date, but has been properly served in accordance with the order for substituted service with the application notice, the hearing bundle, the court orders, and the statements in support of the application.
- These are committal proceedings. The burden of proving the allegations of breach lies with the Applicant, and it must prove the alleged breaches beyond reasonable doubt Matters have moved on since the hearing in August insofar as on 16 August of this year, after the court had adjourned the matter with directions, the Applicant re‑attended court and re-attended before me to inform me that a further alleged incident had occurred on that very day, on that morning, when it was alleged that Mr Rimmer, having left the court building, and walking through the city centre happened across Mr Holden who was also in the city centre with his partner and daughter on Silver Street, and that Mr Holden shouted, ‘W*****’, at Mr Rimmer. The allegations of breach in relation to the committal proceedings were accordingly amended to reflect that third alleged breach. It is all three allegations of breach that this court must consider today.
- I do not consider it appropriate to grant an adjournment because not only has Mr Holden, in my clear view, been properly served but this is not, if I can put it this way, a one-off incident of him failing to attend court. This is not a case where a party, who has ordinarily attended court, has for some unexplained reason failed to attend court against a background of previous compliance. This is a gentleman whom, since he was brought before the court by the police in June of this year, has failed to attend court on, now, three occasions. On all three occasions, Mr and Mrs Rimmer have attended court ready, and able, and willing to give evidence. An adjournment today would cause inconvenience to the witnesses, waste further valuable court time, and, in my assessment, be highly unlikely to result in Mr Holden voluntarily attending on a subsequent occasion in light of his pattern of behaviour.
- I turn therefore to the allegations and I remind myself that the burden of proof lies on Places for People and it must prove them to the criminal standard, that is beyond reasonable doubt. I have heard evidence today from Malcolm Rimmer and Patricia Rimmer. Malcolm Rimmer, who gave evidence on oath confirmed the contents of two witness statements, made by him within these proceedings; the first dated 12 July of this year, and the second 19 August. The statement of 12 July deals with the first and second allegations of breach, the first being the allegation that on 7 May 2019, Mr Holden shouted at Mr Rimmer the words, ‘What the f*** are you looking at, you f****** grass?’ took a step closer to Mr Rimmer in an aggressive manner, and as Mr Rimmer walked away continued to hurl abuse, including the words, ‘F****** grass’, and also that Mr Holden shouted the words, ‘F*** off’, at Mrs Rimmer. In relation to that incident, Mr Rimmer’s evidence is clear. He says this:
‘On 7 May, I was stood in my drive with a neighbour discussing an issue with a vehicle. I was not aware that Michael Holden, the defendant was outside at the time. At approximately 12:00, whilst I was still on my drive, I heard a noise of a person clearing their throat. This was a sickly noise that gave my attention. As such I turned around. I immediately recognised the person as being the defendant. Without provoking him in any way at all, he said to me, ‘What the f*** are you looking at, you f****** grass?’ While doing this the defendant stood bare chest with his arms open in an aggressive and confrontational manner. He then took steps closer to me, again in an aggressive manner. I did not respond to this due to not wanting to escalate the incident further, due to previous incidents of assault from the defendant towards me. As my neighbour and I were walking away towards my gate, the defendant continued to hurl abuse towards me, saying things along the lines if, ‘F****** grass’.
- He then goes on to say:
‘My wife heard the defendant shouting abuse at me and came out to see what was happening. My wife, due to the previous incidents, had picked up the house phone out of instinct. The whole incident lasted approximately three minutes. There were no obstructions in my view, and there was clear visibility. The defendant was approximately 25 yards away throughout the incident. I did not leave my property throughout the incident’.
That is his evidence in relation to the incident on 7 May.
- Patricia Rimmer, in her witness statement, dated 12 July, which was also confirmed under oath, says this of the incident on 7 May 2019 (the witness statement says on 7 June but that was corrected in the witness box and she clarified that it was 7 May 2019):
‘At around midday I was in my garden hanging out washing when I heard Michael Holden, the defendant, shouting. I knew my husband was outside and due to previous incidents of anti-social behaviour from the defendant I picked up the house phone in the event I needed to call the police. I met my husband in the hallway, who had come inside. I went outside and saw the defendant. I held my hand up to gesture, what was he doing. The defendant shouted, ‘F*** off’, and stuck two fingers up at me’.
- That is clear evidence, from both witnesses, both of whom are very familiar with Mr Holden; they have lived in the vicinity of this gentleman for a number of years now. There is no reason for them not to be able to identify him, there is no reason for their identification to be anything other than valid, and the evidence that they give is clear and unequivocal. I note that Mr Rimmer does not give evidence in relation to the allegation that Mr Holden shouted ‘F*** off’ at Mrs Rimmer, but it apparent from Mrs Rimmer’s evidence that by the time that incident is said to have occurred, Mr Rimmer was back in his own property and therefore the fact that Mr Rimmer does not comment on that aspect of the allegation of breach, in my view, does not in any way weaken the voracity of the evidence and the evidence of Mrs Patricia Rimmer.
- I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that on 7 May 2019, Mr Holden shouted the words at Mr Rimmer, ‘What the f*** are you looking at, you f****** grass?’ that he also repeated the ‘F****** grass’ towards Mr Rimmer and he took a step closer to Mr Rimmer in an manner that Mr Rimmer interpreted as being aggressive. I am also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that Mr Holden shouted the phrase, ‘F*** off’, at Mrs Rimmer.
- Having made those findings, do they constitute a breach of paragraph one of the injunction? The use of the ‘What the f*** are you looking at, you f******* grass?’ shouted at Mr Rimmer, unprovoked, in my view amounts to the use of threatening, harassing, or abusive behaviour towards Mr Rimmer. The threat or the shout of, ‘F*** off’, at Mrs Rimmer, again unprovoked, and unnecessary, was in my view the use of threatening, harassing, or abusive behaviour towards Mrs Rimmer. Those were clear breaches of paragraph one of the injunction order.
- As far as the allegation that Mr Holden took a step closer to Mr Rimmer in an aggressive manner is concerned, I have to say that is less clear cut insofar as one person’s interpretation of an aggressive manner, may be another person’s perfectly normal behaviour. Simply taking a step closer to Mr Rimmer of itself would not, in my assessment, amount to use or threatening to use violence or harassing or using abusive, assaulting, or threatening behaviour. Therefore, I cannot be satisfied that that act was a breach beyond reasonable doubt of the injunction order. However, I am satisfied that there were other significant breaches of the order in the course of that incident which I have already dealt with.
- The second allegation deals with 19 June 2019, when it is said that at about 16.40 in the afternoon, Mr Holden drove past the property of Mr and Mrs Rimmer, very slowly, and he shouted at them, including the words, ‘You f****** grass’. That incident is supported by the evidence of Mr Rimmer in his witness statement of 12 July where he says this:
‘On 19 June at approximately 4.40pm I was in my house with my wife when I heard a loud noise like a slamming of a gate. I went up the stairs to see what the noise was and saw from my bedroom window the defendant get into his van, reverse the van, and drive it down York Road in the direction of Orchard Park. As he drove past my home, he slowed down. The driver’s window was down, and I clearly saw the defendant put his arm out of the van, and stick two fingers up at the direction of my property and shout, ‘You f****** grass’. My wife rang the police to report this as a further breach of the injunction’.
- Patricia Rimmer, in her statement of 12 July, says this:
‘On 19 June 2019, at approximately 4.40pm, I was in my house with my husband when I heard a loud noise like a slamming of a gate. Due to ongoing incidents of anti-social behaviour with the defendant, I am understandably on edge when loud noises are heard. My husband went upstairs to see what the noise was and I remained in the living room. I heard a voice that I know is Michael Holden the defendant shouting, ‘You f****** grass’. I rang the police to report this as a further breach of the injunction order’.
- In addition to the evidence of Mr and Mrs Rimmer, which was confirmed today under oath, there is a further witness statement from Kathy Holmes. Kathy Holmes was not called to give evidence today and her evidence is hearsay and I must assess what weight, if any, to place on it. However, what her evidence does say is this:
‘On 19 June 2019, at approximately 4.45pm, I heard my neighbours’ gate slam. As I’ve been experiencing anti-social behaviour from Michael Holden, the defendant, and I had my car damaged I’m very anxious and the loud noise made me panic. I was in my bedroom with my carer and looked out of my window to see the defendant get out [sic] of his van, and erratically reverse it on to the grass and then drive it off at speed down York Road in the direction of Orchard Park Road. I saw the defendant brake suddenly and slowing drive past 90 York Road, the property of my neighbours Malcolm and Patricia Rimmer. I saw the defendant stick two fingers up in the direction of 90 York Road and shout either ‘F****** grass’, or ‘Chuffing grass’. I had my bedroom window open and therefore could hear the defendant shouting’.
- I bear in mind that Ms Holmes has not been tendered for evidence today or cross‑examined. However, I do note that her statement, which is not, if I can put it this way, a formulaic statement which mirrors word-by-word the evidence of Mr and Mrs Rimmer, corroborates the evidence invited to this court by Mr and Mrs Rimmer. I also note that all three witnesses say that they were inside their respective properties, but were able to hear Mr Holden shout.
- Having considered the evidence of Mr and Mrs Rimmer primarily, and being satisfied that Kathy Holmes’ evidence has some weight although I primarily base my findings on the evidence that has been tendered today, I am satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that on 19 June, at about 16:40, Mr Holden drove past the property of Mr and Mrs Rimmer, very slowly, and shouted at them, including the words, ‘You f****** grass’. I am satisfied that that was a breach of paragraph one of the injunction order.
- The third incident, and allegation of breach, relates to 16 August 2019, when it is said that at 11.15 in the morning, in Hull city centre, on Silver Street, Mr Holden shouted the word, ‘W*****’ at Mr Rimmer. That is dealt with in the second witness statement of Mr Rimmer, dated 19 August, which again he confirmed under oath today. He says this:
‘On 16 August, I attended Hull Combined Court as a witness in the committal trial of Michael Holden, the defendant. The defendant failed to attend the hearing, therefore just after 11am I left the court to go home. At approximately 11.15am, as I was walking down Silver Street, Hull, which is approximately 300 yards from the court, I saw the defendant walking on the pavement outside Fanthorpes[?] Music Store on the other side of the road to me; the defendant was with his partner and daughter. They looked as though as they had been shopping as they had shopping bags in their hands. The defendant was wearing jeans with light coloured cap covered by a green hooded top. I was absolutely stunned that I’d seen the defendant shopping with his family so close to the court at the exact time he should have been attending the trial. I did not approach or say anything to the defendant. The defendant looked across the road at me and shouted, ‘w******’ and continued to walk down Silver Street but at a faster pace, turning on to Lowgate in the direction of the court. His partner put her head down and carried on walking and did not look at me’.
- Having considered that evidence, again I am satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that on 16 August 2019, at approximately 11.15am, Mr Holden shouted the word, ‘w*****’ at Mr Rimmer in a public place, unprovoked. Again, I am satisfied that that is a breach of paragraph one of the injunction order. I therefore find, with the exception of the allegation that the defendant took a step closer to Mr Rimmer in an aggressive manner on 7 May 2019, that there have been breaches of the injunction order on 7 May, 19 June, and 16 August 2019 respectively.
End of Judgment