Case Number: G00PD228
In Pontypridd County Court
23 July 2021
District Judge Andrews
- The case before the Court today relates to sentencing for contempt and committal proceedings brought by the claimant in this case, Trivallis Limited, against the defendant, Luan Davies. The application for committal was by way of an application dated 28 May 2021 attached to a statement of contempt.
- The background to the matter is that on 3 November 2020 the defendant, Luan Davies, who is a tenant of the claimant landlord, Trivallis Limited, was subject to an antisocial behaviour injunction to be in force until 29 October 2021 with various terms attached to it in relation to her conduct and behaviour whilst a tenant at the claimant’s premises.
- The allegations in relation to the statement of contempt were that she had breached the injunction order imposed initially on 30 October 2020 and made final on 3 November 2020, by on 11 May being verbally abusive to Rebecca Jones, a neighbour of the defendant within Buckley Close, this verbal abuse included a threat to kill.
- The second statement of contempt relates to 15 May 2021 when it was alleged by the claimant that the defendant was causing excessive noise in her flat causing a nuisance to her neighbour, Liam Enoc[?], who resides in the flat below the defendant. Liam Enoc found the noise so excessive that he asked Liam Thomas to attend his property to witness the same. Liam Thomas confirmed that he could hear the noise as soon as he opened his front door and the noise only increased when he went to Liam Enoc’s property.
- The consideration of the contempt proceedings was listed for final hearing before Pontypridd County Court and before myself on 18 June 2021 when the defendant, Luan Davies, failed to attend Court. On that occasion the Court concluded that it would proceed to consider the contempt proceedings in her absence because of her previous failure to attend Court on numerous occasions and the Court satisfaction that she was fully aware of the proceedings that day having considered the certificates of service upon file.
- The Court heard oral evidence from various witnesses including the neighbours, Rebecca Jones, Liam Enoc and Liam Thomas and also various officers within the claimant’s employment, before it concluded, in the defendant’s absence, that she had breached the injunction dated 3 November 2020 by engaging in conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance, housing-related nuisance or annoyance on both 11 May 2021 and 15 May 2021 and also engaging in conduct capable of amounting to threatening or intimidating behaviour on 11 May 2021 only and not 15 May 2021.
- As part of the consideration of the consent proceedings the claimant had also asked the Court by way of an application which had been served upon the defendant, to make an exclusion order varying the injunction order to exclude the defendant from her premises until the expiry of the injunction order due to expire on 29 October 2021. In considering the seriousness of the incidents of the 11th and 15 May, on that occasion this Court did grant the exclusion order and it is understood that the defendant has since left the property, has not returned and has not breached the injunction or at the very least, there have been no breach proceedings brought to the attention of the Court today.
- The matter was listed for sentencing of the defendant, her not being present for the conviction hearing on 18 June 2021, on 9 July 2021 and a bench warrant was issued to the police to secure her attendance at Court. On that occasion she did not attend and the Court was informed through the claimant’s representatives that she had been arrested the evening before by the police for criminal offences and was currently at the Magistrates’ Courts awaiting sentence in respect of those criminal offences. At that stage the Court concluded that it did not want to sentence in absence because the defendant, having failed to attend the relevant hearings, had not presented her position in respect of the breaches and the Court did not want to sentence blind, as it were.
- However, the defendant has yet again today failed to attend the adjourned hearing and the Court is of course concerned, as well as obtaining her position in respect of the allegations and the convictions against her for breach of the injunction, with proportionality and of costs. The warrant that was issued by the Court makes it clear that the police were to arrest the defendant and bring her to Pontypridd County Court for 11.40am today and they have failed, for whatever reason, to do that but in any event I am satisfied, as I have indicated at the start of this hearing, that she was served with notice of today’s hearing and has failed to attend.
- As part of the hearing on 18 June I indicated that she had shown a blatant disregard for the court orders in terms of attendance at Court and therefore I am satisfied that she has chosen not to attend at Court here today and I have therefore decided to sentence in absence which is an unusual step but this having been the third occasion that sentencing could have been passed down I am not prepared to adjourn to a further date.
- In terms of sentencing, of course, the principles of sentencing are well-established in the various case laws in respect of contempt of court which, of course, breach of the injunction is, Hale v Tanner  EWCA Civ 5570, Robinson v Murray  EWCA Civ 935 and also the more recent case of Gill v Birmingham City Council  EWCA Civ 608. These cases indicate that there are three objectives to be considered by a County Court judge in dealing with contempt proceedings, the first is punishment for the breach of the order of the Court; the second is to secure a future compliance with the Court’s orders if possible; third is rehabilitation which, of course, is companion, naturally, to the second objective of obtaining future compliance.
- In respect of the sentencing options there are limited powers available to the Court; there is no tariff for sentencing for contempt of court, sentence is entirely a matter for the Judge and every case is fact specific. The Court could impose an immediate custodial sentence, a maximum in accordance with Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 is two years and it could impose a custodial sentence and then suspend that on terms, the terms are usually that the defendant obeys the terms of the injunction but the Court must not impose a suspended sentence unless it first considers that custody is warranted. The first question the Court must ask itself is whether there should be a custodial sentence and if the answer to that is yes, only then do you ask yourself whether a suspended sentence could be imposed.
- The other options available to the Court include adjourning sentence, that could be to a date fixed at the hearing, normally for three to six months. Examples of when that would be appropriate would be firstly where the defendant is about to undertake some treatment or course which has the potential to address the underlying causes of the problem, for example, drug or alcohol addiction or the second may be where this is the first breach but the defendant is genuinely remorseful and conduct is improving. Well, in this case conduct does appear to be improving but we do not know what the defendant’s position is in respect of being remorseful and whether there is any help being sought or treatment being sought in respect of her issues.
- The other options available to the Court included an unlimited fine or no order. An unlimited fine is rarely imposed because of the financial situation of most of the defendants in the cases before the Court. No order is usually appropriate where any breach is minor or where things have moved on, for example, the defendant has served a sentence since the breach or has been evicted from a property during which the nuisance was caused. Of course, we are all aware the defendant has been excluded from the property during which the issues and the nuisance was caused, but that it only for a temporary basis until the exclusion of the injunction order; the Court has been told today that she previously indicated she will surrender the tenancy but communication has unfortunately gone quiet in relation to that and the claimant may be seeking the issuing of possession proceedings in respect of that tenancy.
- When the Court considers the type of sentence it will impose, the Court of course has to consider the aggravating and the mitigating features of the breaches. I heard very emotional evidence from Miss Rebecca[?] Jones who is subject of the breach on 11 May 2021 and she appeared to the Court to be extremely fearful of the defendant in this case and was actually fearful for her life as a result of the threats that had been made to her; this is one of the reasons why the Court, on that date, made the exclusion order that it did.
- Therefore, the breach on that occasion, in my view, was very harmful and the defendant has not indicated any remorse that is before the Court because she simply has not provided any response to the breaches by failing to comply with the court orders. She has not attended Court on a number of occasions and I have already concluded she showed a disregard of court orders by failing to attend and again today she has failed to attend and has not, as far as the Court is aware, contacted the Court in respect of today’s hearing.
- Mitigating features, of course, for the Court will take into account, are that she has been excluded from the property and has not returned and has not breached the injunction thus far, although the injunction is, of course, in force for some time yet and in terms of mitigating circumstances there has been no breach since that date and she has, of course, suffered the consequences of the exclusion.
- However, the incidents on 11 May and 15 May were very serious and clearly had a fundamental impact upon the witnesses that gave evidence to the Court and no doubt their lives are significantly improved since the defendant has been excluded from the property.
- The defendant, whilst on bail, on two occasions, has committed the breaches and appears to have shown no regard at all for the court orders that have been in place in respect of her, not only the injunction which she has breached and she has been found to have breached that, but also the orders requiring her attendance at Court.
- Therefore, for all of those reasons and taking into account all of the facts of this case, the Court has concluded that the defendant’s behaviour and the breach has passed the custody threshold and she should be committed to prison and that will be for a period of one month. However, the committal of the defendant to prison will be suspended on the following terms and that is compliance with the terms of the injunction order dated 3 November 2020 until its expiry on 29 October 2021.