Case Number: H07MA539
Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 1633 (Ch)
In The Manchester County Court
Manchester Civil Justice Centre
19 June 2023
District Judge Banks
Irwell Valley Housing Association
Committal for Contempt of Court
MS H GREATOREX (instructed by Knights PLC) appeared on behalf of the Claimant.
MR J STARR (Solicitor of WTB Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Defendant.
THE DISTRICT JUDGE:
1 This is a contempt application in relation to three recent breaches and a sentence in relation to an adjourned sentence for nine previous breaches of an injunction which was made final back on 7 February 2022. I also have to consider whether to activate the suspended sentence put in place by District Judge Stonier back in May 2022 in relation to a further fourteen breaches of the injunction.
2 In terms of the background of this matter, the final injunction was granted on 7 February 2022. Amongst its terms, Mr Logan was prevented from entering or remaining at 2 Cherry Court, Whitley Place, Timperley, or going within 100 metres of that property. There have been numerous breaches of that order all of which, to Mr Logan’s credit, have been admitted by him, some at a later stage in proceedings than others.
3 The matter originally came before District Judge Stonier on 15 June 2022 when there were fourteen alleged breaches, the vast majority of these relating to the exclusion provision of the order but some of those also related to the breach of the provision not to cause nuisance or annoyance. At that hearing, Judge Stonier sentenced on the admitted breaches and ordered that Mr Logan serve two months in prison but suspended that sentence for the life of the original injunction.
4 Following that hearing, there were then further breaches of the order with an arrest on 25 November 2022 in relation to two alleged breaches – one was admitted and one was not – and on that occasion, Mr Logan was sentenced for the admitted breach for the time that he had served following his arrest with no further sanction necessary. The second breach was not pursued. After that, there have been a further nine breaches which were admitted before District Judge Peters on 13 January 2023 and in relation to those matters, the sentence was adjourned. In addition, at that time, the life of the injunction was extended for a further year.
5 Notwithstanding the suspended sentence and the adjourned sentence, there have now been a further three breaches which form the basis of the present committal application. Accordingly, it falls to me today to sentence you, Mr Logan, for the adjourned sentence for the nine breaches as well as the three additional breaches, and also to consider whether or not I should activate the suspended sentence imposed by District Judge Stonier.
6 I remind myself in dealing with the facts that the purpose of sentencing for breach of injunction is threefold: first of all, to enforce compliance with the orders; secondly, to punish the breaches; and third of all, to assist in rehabilitation. I have, in dealing with this matter, considered the guidelines set down in the case of Lovett v Wigan Borough Council (Re Breaches of ASBIs)  EWCA Civ 1631 as to the approach that I should adopt when sentencing, and I have also considered the guidelines in the Civil Justice Council guidelines.
7 It is fair to say that the alleged breaches are all of a similar nature and so I will deal with them together but my comments are directed at each and every one of the breaches individually unless I state otherwise. I have considered, first of all, the culpability and harm level set out within the guidelines and I have heard the submissions that have been made. It is my opinion that this matters each fall within culpability level B, that being the middle category and also in terms of the harm level, I am satisfied that they fall within harm level 2. There was a suggestion made on behalf of Mr Logan that these should be dealt with as B3 breaches but having considered both the volume of breaches and the effect that it is having on the original complainant Mr Ashiq, whose witness statement I have read, I am satisfied that this is a middle level harm case. The injunction was put in place to avoid harm to Mr Ashiq predominantly and that must have been known at the time of each of the alleged breaches.
8 The starting point, therefore, when looking at a B2 breach is one month in prison but there is a range through from adjourned consideration to three months in prison that I have available to me. This starting position needs to be adjusted to consider aggravating and mitigating factors. I deal first with the aggravating factors. The obvious aggravating factor here is the sheer volume of breaches. There have been twenty-seven breaches of this injunction since it was made in February 2022. The persistent nature of these breaches is something that I have to give clear weight to in my decision. In terms of mitigation, it is said that whilst there were threats and issues of that nature originally, all of the more recent breaches have simply been breaches of the exclusion provision with the order. I understand what is being said in that regard but it adds little weight to suggest that simply because another part of the injunction has not been breached, there should be some flexibility or leniency based on the breach of the exclusion provisions alone.
9 What is also said is that there have been no breaches in the last three months, the last breach in this matter occurring on 12 March 2023. Explanations have been provided in further mitigation as to why there have been no further breaches and I have been told that Mr Logan is currently in a better position than he was, both in terms of his accommodation needs, his concerns for his mother, and in relation to his drug use. I have to say, these submissions are based on the submissions made by Mr Starr. I have seen no formal evidence supporting any of the submissions but I hear what has been said. I have also been provided with an explanation for the alleged breaches and the vast majority are said to have occurred because Mr Logan had concerns for his mother’s health. His mother, I should record, lives within the exclusion zone.
10 Taking account of all of these factors, it therefore falls to me to adjust the guideline sentence accordingly. I cannot ignore the volume of breaches and the persistent nature of the breaches and the fact that this matter has been before the court on numerous occasions. It is clear that Mr Logan would have been aware of the terms of the injunction and what he was and was not allowed to do and has clearly made a choice to breach this injunction on many occasions. The defendant, Mr Logan, has been given the indulgence of the court on at least two separate occasions with suspended and adjourned sentences but it appears has not moderated his behaviour prior to March 2023 and complied with the order. It is therefore appropriate for me when considering the aggravating and mitigating factors to increase the sentence from the starting point to two and a half months.
11 I take into account the admissions that have been made and the timing of those admissions, that they were not made at the earliest opportunity but they were not left to the day of the hearing either. I am, in my discretion, permitted to allow a reduction time for the admissions that have been made and so I will reduce the sentence by 20 per cent giving a total sentence of two months. The sentence, therefore, for the breaches is two months custody in relation to each of the breaches that I am sentencing for.
12 I then consider the question both of the activation and suspension of District Judge Stonier’s order and whether to apply a suspension in relation to today’s sentence. It seems to me that it is appropriate when dealing with this matter that I deal with it in the totality. It is appropriate, therefore, that I should activate the suspension of DJ Stonier’s order and deal with those matters today. That activates the existing sentence of the two months’ imprisonment.
13 Standing back and looking at the totality of the sentence, it seems to me that there will be some overlap, I consider that a total of three months’ imprisonment for all breaches, including those originally sentenced by District Judge Stonier, is appropriate.
14 As to the question of whether that three months sentence should now be suspended, there has already been a suspended sentence. That was provided in order to ensure compliance with the injunction. It did not achieve that objective. There has been an adjournment of the sentence. That, again, was put in place to achieve compliance with the order. That did not achieve its objective. It is suggested on behalf of the claimant that there is therefore no reason in these circumstances to suspend the sentence a third time. In response, I note what I have already said that there have been no recent breaches, no breaches since March. There has been a suggested change in Mr Logan’s personal circumstances in relation to the care for his mother, his accommodation, and his drug use, and what is said is that custody would be a backward step and may forge difficulties with any of those three categories of improvement that Mr Logan is currently experiencing.
15 When reading these papers this morning, it is fair to say I had a strong preliminary view that this matter would result in a custodial sentence with immediate effect today but having heard the submissions that have been made, I am satisfied that there is evidence, albeit small, of a change in Mr Logan’s attitude over the past months. I remind myself that the main purpose of sentence is to enforce compliance with the order and I am satisfied that custody, at this stage, would be a backward step to achieving compliance in light of Mr Logan’s current position.
16 I therefore am satisfied that it is appropriate to suspend the three-month sentence today but I cannot emphasise enough, Mr Logan, how close this came to a custodial decision today. Whilst I cannot bind the hands of future judges who may deal with these matters, if there are further breaches, in light of the history of this matter, I would be shocked if any further breaches, no matter how trivial and no matter for what reason, will result in anything other than the imposition of an immediate custodial sentence.
17 For those reasons, the order that I will make therefore will be that there will be a custodial sentence of three months suspended until the end of the injunction, which is, 7 February 2024. I should reiterate that there is a right to appeal this decision to the Circuit Judge in the Manchester County Court. A transcript of this judgment will be made available shortly on the judiciary’s website.