Committal for Contempt of Court in open court at Watford: Lanka

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: H00WD618

In the County Court
Sitting at Watford

4 January 2022


His Honour Judge Middleton-Roy

On 27th September 2021, the Claimant, St Albans City and District Council, obtained an injunction against the Defendant, Puwakdandawa Lokuacharige Chaminda Lanka, under the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The Claimant is a Local Authority under s5(1)(a) of the 2014 Act.

The Defendant, who is believed to be a Sri Lankan national, had been rough-sleeping on council premises, including leaving his belongings in front of the civic centre at St Albans, despite repeatedly being offered accommodation by a charity assisting asylum seekers.

On the evidence, the Deputy District Judge granted the injunction, being satisfied that the Defendant’s conduct fell within s2(1)(a) of the 2014 Act, the Deputy District Judge having found that the Defendant’s conduct has caused and is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any person.

The injunction forbids the Defendant from sleeping, resting, sitting or lying on land owned by the Claimant surrounding the civic centre at St Albans, marked on a plan attached to the injunction Order or from storing or leaving any belongings on any land owned by the Claimant. The injunction remains valid until 26th March 2022.  There has been no appeal against the decision of the Deputy District Judge to grant that injunction.

The injunction was served personally on the Defendant on 19th October 2021.

The Claimant issued a contempt application on 17th November 2021 alleging persistent breaches of the injunction by the Defendant.  The contempt application, evidence in support and notice of hearing were each served personally on the Defendant. The Defendant did not attend this hearing nor was he legally represented. As with the preceding injunction application, the Defendant has not engaged with these Court proceedings.

In respect of this contempt application, the standard of proof is the criminal standard. The Claimant must prove the allegations beyond reasonable doubt.

The contempt application and evidence in support provide a summary of the facts said to constitute the contempt and set out in detail the nature of the alleged contempt, including the date and times of the alleged breaches of the injunction. The Injunction Order contains a penal notice, warning the Defendant of the consequences of any breach of the Order.

On the plain evidence before the Court, the Court finds to the criminal standard that the Defendant breached the terms of the injunction Order on 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 27th October 2021 and on 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th November 2021. The Court finds the Defendant in contempt of Court.

The Court having found the Defendant in contempt, the Court may impose period of imprisonment, a fine or impose an Order confiscating his assets.

The Court finds that the ten separate breaches demonstrate persistent breaches by the Defendant of the injunction Order. Weighing up all the factors in the case, there is no evidence that the breaches caused anything more than little harm or distress. However, the evidence demonstrates a continuing risk of minor anti-social behaviour. That the breaches of the Injunction Order were made very shortly after the Order was served is an aggravating factor. No mitigating factors are apparent.

In the judgment of this Court, a sentence of 12 weeks imprisonment for each breach to run concurrently is appropriate. Given the failure of the Defendant to engage in the proceedings and the likelihood of further breach, a suspended sentence is not appropriate.

The Defendant is accordingly committed to prison for contempt of Court for a total period of 12 weeks or until lawfully discharged, if sooner. A warrant of committal be issued forthwith.