Committal for Contempt of Court in open court in Barrow-in-Furness: Barrow Borough Council -v- Mark Trengove
FamilyCommittal for Contempt of Court
Case No: G00BW048
In the Barrow-in-Furness Family Court
22 February 2022
District Judge Stone
Barrow Borough Council
MISS TIMM, Counsel, appeared on behalf of the Claimant
MR ROBERTS, solicitor appeared on behalf of the Defendant
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This judgment was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgment to be published on condition that (irrespective of what is contained in the judgment) in any published version of the judgment the anonymity of the children and members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of Court.
- You have admitted seven breaches of an injunction that was originally granted in March 2020. You were made subject of injunctions on a previous occasion in 2017, and it is accepted that you breached that injunction, leading to a sentence of imprisonment for a period of six months.
- I am not sentencing you for that again but it is relevant as part of the circumstances and how you deal with court orders. Court orders are important. They are there to protect a community and are there to be complied with. Any non-compliance in relation to court orders has its own significance.
- In reaching my conclusions as to the appropriate sentence to pass for each of the breaches admitted today I take into account the Sentencing Guidelines applicable to breaches of Anti-Social Behaviour orders in Criminal cases adjusting these as necessary to apply them to breaches of the Court order that you have now admitted.
- In this case, there are effectively three occasions, if you take 18 May when there were a number of incidents as all occurring on one day, where there have been breaches of the injunction that has imposed in 2020. That injunction was originally imposed for two years, given the nature of the allegations that were set out when the injunction was applied for and given the previous history that was in place at that time.
- It is correct to say that on 18 May there were a number of matters that clearly you accept were in breach. It is right, and I remember on 7 July when those breaches were before the Court, that there was the possibility of some admission in relation to certain elements. In addition, I take into account, because it is relevant, that at that stage the claimant did not pursue that committal application but adjourned it.
- It was adjourned on the basis that you surrendered your tenancy and were going to move on at that stage and not get into a situation of further breaching the order. It was clearly the intention that by moving away from the area that there would be no further reason for you to be in the area and no breach. This was clearly what was intended at the time that the order was made on 7 July.
- Taking into account that there was not that opportunity for admissions to be made then and the application was not pursued at that time but was adjourned, it cannot be said that, in relation to any of those allegations, they themselves arise from a persistent breach of this order.
- However, they do arise from a breach of the order in a context where there have been breaches of a previous order. Although the admissions that you make today may have been put forward, it is clear that they arise from a background of behaviour in the community that would cause concern and that, in relation to each of those allegations on 18 May, would have caused concern to the people who were subject of the behaviour that you have admitted.
- Mr Fisher on that occasion was, from his own statement, previously friendly with you and was concerned about your behaviour and the interaction that he had with you in breach of the order on 18 May 2021. You also called Caroline Bee who was a housing operative who was going about her job, who you were specifically told not to contact. In addition, not only did you contact her once; you called and made threats or matters that could be concerning to her and called on a number of occasions, not just once.
- Likewise, in respect of Mr Hine; you were prevented from any direct or indirect contact with him by the order that was made by District Judge Mackley on 26 March. I accept that you did not seek him out by virtue of the allegation that you have admitted. However, when seeing him knowing there was an order in place, rather than walk away, you approached him in a manner which again would cause him some concern and distress in the same way as calling Christine Bee did.
- As far as all of those offences are concerned, though, it is wrong to say that they amount to persistent breaches in themselves. It is something that happened on a single occasion. There is a persistence to them. However, I would not class that as anything that would fall within culpability A of the very serious or persistent breach but would be a deliberate breach falling within what would be known as culpability category B.
- Likewise, any breach of the order when it is there to protect people going about their normal business, their jobs in a community, where there is an injunction to prevent them being harassed, annoyed, distressed, threatened, and yet there are breaches of that and that happened, will add to and cause distress. However, in relation to the allegations that are admitted, it cannot be said that that would be very serious harm or distress.
- That does not belittle or in any diminish the impact upon the people who have had to suffer from your approaches and contact to them but to describe that as very serious would not be appropriate. Serious, yes, and having a significant impact on them, yes, but so far as each of those allegations are concerned, falling within in Category 2 of the seriousness of harm so far as matters are concerned.
- When then I consider the fact that, and as I have indicated, there was not in relation to those matters the possibility for you to make the admissions that you have made today, that there should be credit given for the fact that you have admitted those matters today in the context of the previous history. However, and it is something I also take into account, when this application was brought before the Court and those matters were included, there was still a denial in relation to those matters. The admissions, although some may have been forthcoming in July, have only effectively been made today.
- While I am dealing with admissions, it is also correct to say that you immediately admitted the events on 1 December and attending in the area of Dominion Street, and when I come to that I will give you credit for that admission. There were, however, for the allegation on 22 September 2021, when again you approached Mr Fisher having approached him before, no admissions until today when the matter was listed for a trial to consider whether or not you were in breach of the order.
- It is correct to say, however, that you have admitted it even at what I would term the eleventh hour. You should get some limited credit for having admitted matters and not required people who have already suffered distress yet additional stress of having given evidence and be cross‑examined. There is limited credit that should be given for the fact that you have not put those people through that further impact of your behaviour and by reason of your admissions that have not had to give evidence before me today.
- However, you have required them to come to court and be available for that purpose. Therefore, any credit in that regard is limited but it is correct that it is given to the extent that you have not required at that trial.
- It is, so far as the allegation on 22 September is concerned, something that can be said to be persistent so far as Mr Fisher is concerned. Albeit again, you did not seek him out, having seen him, rather than walk away in a context of knowing, having just made an application to the Court to vary the injunction knowing the terms of it, you approached him, acknowledged that you would do so in a manner that would cause him distress and harm whilst he was with his partner, and in circumstances where you had already faced an allegation of a breach for doing almost exactly the same, maybe slightly more significant, on 18 May. However, that is a persistent element and nature to matters, particularly given that there had been the events on 7 July, and an opportunity and matters put before the Court on the basis that you wished to move forward and would not further breach the order.
- Therefore, so far as that breach is concerned, bearing in mind the history, coming to court in July, your own application and knowledge of the order and yet not walking away and causing further distress to Mr Fisher, which is clear from his statement, can be classed as a persistent breach falling within culpability A. It does not, however, cause significant or serious harm or distress. The impact is cumulative so far as Mr Fisher is concerned.
- You approaching him again, in the circumstances in the background, would cause him harm but it is not serious harm or distress, and what happened on that occasion in itself may be said to be less serious than what occurred on 18 May. However, that is in itself, and not taking account the cumulative effect of impact of you approaching and causing that distress directly to Mr Fisher, in breach of the order. Therefore, the harm level, so far as that allegation on 22 September is concerned, is within Category 2 of causing harm, but not serious harm or distress.
- Moving on to 1 December, I accept the submissions that were made. You admitted that on the first occasion. You knew, however, and you clearly knew from the submissions that had been made ably on your behalf by Mr Roberts, that by going back to Dominion Street you were directly challenging, breaching and defying the court order.
- You were breaching it knowingly and in doing so were showing exactly what is alleged by the claimant; that is serious contempt for the court order. You knew that that was the case. Credit and full credit will be given for the fact that you have admitted that on the first and earliest occasion that you could.
- I do take into account, although it is significant and a persistent breach, it coming in the circumstances, and therefore the breach is persistent in the same way as it would be in September because it is the third set of occasions when there have been breaches of the order. However, there is no evidence of you attempting to or causing any harm in the community beyond going back to somewhere where you should not. Therefore, the harm element of that, in the circumstances of going to the area, is not significant and would not cause the harm and distress but, again, is within Category 2, not Category 3 because of the potential of what would happen on that particular occasion.
- Finally, and again not admitted until today, it now accepted by you for the first occasion that there was a threat to use violence towards the DS Goss. It is still said that that was not necessarily directly in the area where the injunction takes place and that has not been challenged, and, therefore, that is something I take into account.
- However, it clearly arose from your breach in going to that area, was connected to going that area, and it is accepted was in breach of the terms of the injunction in effectively making threats to a police officer, who are going about their lawful duty and acting appropriately within the vicinity and enforcing the terms of the court order that was put before them. To act in that manner, given the history, can again be said to be persistent.
- It is correct to say that, unfortunately, our police officers often face threats, violence, I am not suggesting you were violent, but they face that in the course of their duty. That does not make it right and when there is an injunction and someone acts in that manner, it is something that is significant. People should go there about their business, police, public or otherwise, without someone making threats towards them and particularly where there is the additional element knowing that they were, by an injunction, not allowed to do so.
- Taking into account all of those matters and the seriousness and culpability as I have indicated, I will go through in relation to the sentence that I will impose in relation to each of the matters that you have breached.
- As far as the allegation number one that on 18 May, or the matter proved now, that on 18 May there were the threats to Ashley Fisher, taking into account all of the factors and giving limited credit, as I have already indicated so far as that is concerned, I sentence you to a period of custody.
- I consider that custody is necessary, given the history and the only appropriate starting point in relation to matters. The starting point given the findings that I have made by way of guidance on the basis of a maximum penalty of five years in custody would be 12 weeks’ custodial sentence. Bearing in mind all of the factors that I have set out, your admissions, albeit in the context that I have set out, and giving you credit for those admissions and the circumstances, a period of eight weeks’ custody is the sentence that I impose for allegation one.
- As far as allegation two is concerned, that is a further allegation on the same day of an impact upon Mr Fisher. It does have greater significance because it is the second event on the same day in relation to matters. Although it is, as I have termed it, a set of breaches that occur in one day, they still have a cumulative effect. The appropriate sentence for allegation two is one of 10 weeks’ custody running concurrently with the sentence that I have imposed previously.
- As far as the telephone calls to Miss Bee are concerned, they fall into a similar position as allegation one so far as seriousness and sentence is concerned. Again, taking into account all of the matters that I have set out, the sentence that I impose for that breach is a sentence of eight weeks in custody running concurrently with the other sentences imposed.
- Approaching Mr Hine again was the same day, but again in knowledge of the situation and the matters that I have set out and bearing in mind the other breaches, the appropriate sentence for that allegation and matter in breach is again a period of custody of eight weeks concurrent with the other sentences.
- As far as the sentence is concerned in relation to allegation five, that is on 22 September approaching Mr Fisher. There is only very limited credit in relation to that. It was demonstrating a more persistent element of breach and was the third occasion that there had been breaches involving Mr Fisher.
- In relation to that, given the persistent element in relation to matters, albeit what I have said about harm, the appropriate sentence that I impose for that is a period 20 weeks’ custodial sentence to recognise the more serious element of the persistent nature and the adjournment that takes place and the failure to comply with the court order, which is one of the purposes of court orders that are put in place and to prevent behaviour that Mr Fisher was subject to on that occasion. Given that it was a separate offence and a separate breach in relation to matters, that is something that will run consecutively.
- As far as 1 December, being found in the area of Dominion Street, taking into the submissions that I have made, the course of what I have said, the seriousness of that offence but giving credit in relation to matter and pose a penalty, so far as that is concerned, of 12 weeks in custody; that to run concurrently with the other sentences in all the circumstances.
- In addition, so far as the matter of making threats to DS Goss is concerned, that again shows an element of persistence. It was not admitted until the last possible occasion. The appropriate sentence for that is again a period of 20 weeks in custody to run concurrently to the other sentences. When I take into account the question of totality, as I have to, that makes effectively a sentence of imprisonment of 30 weeks.
- I now do need to calculate and give credit for the period of time that you have spent on remand from 1 December through to 17 December. There is no way that that is taken into account other than by me reducing the sentence. It is appropriate that I reduce the sentence by that number of days, taking into account that you have served that time in prison already.
- I think, therefore, that is a question two weeks and a number of days, 16 days. The only consecutive sentence are effectively the sentence on 22 September when I take into account the totality and the nature of matters effectively 30 weeks is the total sentence, all others running concurrent. I reduce the 20 weeks consecutive sentence so that it is 20 weeks less those 24 days that was in custody to reduce it appropriately. I will term the sentence when I do the form to make the total number of days 186.
- Mr Trengove, you will serve half of that sentence before you will be eligible for release. You are able to appeal the order that I have made. You will need to seek and speak to Mr Roberts as appropriate should you wish to do but it is right that I indicate to you that you have a right of appeal in relation to the sentence that I impose.
- In relation to matters, that is a matter that you can take legal advice on as appropriate. You do not need permission to make that application. It is something that you have the right to do if you do consider it appropriate, but you will need to take legal advice. I will complete the necessary forms for you to be remanded and sentenced for that period of 186 days from today.