Committal for Contempt of Court: Stonewater Limited -v- Green

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: K00TQ266

In The County Court At Plymouth

23 February 2024

His Honour Judge Mitchell

Stonewater Limited
Robert Green

MR DUKES of Counsel appeared for the Claimant
The Defendant did not attend and was not represented


  1. I am dealing with the sentencing pursuant to a Contempt Application brought by Stonewater Limited against a Mr Robert Green for breaches of an Anti Social Behaviour Injunction made by the Court on 24th July of last year. Stonewater is represented by counsel, Mr Dukes. Mr Green again is not here. I will say something briefly about the background because these are serious matters and it may well be that a transcript or some such may be required at some point.
  2. Stonewater is a registered social housing provider.
  3. It owns flat 12 Combe Bank, Lindthorpe Way, Brixham. That is a one bedroom flat, part of a retirement housing scheme so the residents by definition are relatively elderly and, as I think I understood from a previous occasion, at least some are vulnerable.
  4. The flat is let to Mr Green under an assured tenancy and that was incepted back in March 2017.
  5. Mr Green, I believe, is in the vicinity of 72 years of age.
  6. The Applicant’s case, as has been put in previous hearings, in broad terms, is that at least since 2019, Mr Green had behaved in an unacceptably anti-social way, including engaging in verbal abuse of residents and in a threatening, intimidatory fashion. That led to the Application for the ASBI and to the Injunction being granted in a bid to curtail Mr Green’s behaviour. The injunction, I should say, was granted in his presence so there is no question that he was aware of what was going on.
  7. The case came before me on 4th January in respect of the committal hearing. Mr Green did not attend despite having been served with Orders requiring his attendance. It has been pointed out to him in a number of orders that he is entitled to public funding to be represented. It is fair to say, certainly in respect of the Committal Proceedings, that he has not engaged with those at all. On 4th January I heard from the Applicant’s witnesses. I made findings and gave full reasons on that occasion both in terms of the findings and also why I was proceeding in Mr Green’s absence.
  8. In short, I found two of three allegations proved. They were effectively, that on 15th August Mr Green intimidating a resident of Combe Bank by shouting abusive language in an intimidatory way in an effort, it would appear, to get a car moved from a parking space despite, ironically, the car not belonging to the resident or the other person who was being verbally abused at the time. I heard evidence in that respect from Mr Brian Stark and Mr Brian Hattersley, As I say, found the allegation proved.
  9. Then on 16th August, I think to my mind a more serious incident, intimidating a resident by shouting quite extreme, abusive language. It was an incident again involving vehicles. The witness concerned, Mr Hellier, effectively told me that he was driving his vehicle, Mr Green was coming I think from the opposite direction. They both could not pass, so Mr Hellier pointed out that Mr Green would need to reverse because he was not able to. Obviously there was some disagreement about that. Then Mr Green engaged in extreme, verbal abuse and then drove over a grass verge at speed right by Mr Hellier’s vehicle. Mr Hellier thought the vehicles were going to collide and he described it as appalling behaviour, worse than aggressive and described himself ended up as shaking as a result.
  10. The third allegation I need not descend to. That allegation was not proved because the witness concerned did not attend, so I am proceeding to sentencing purely on the first two allegations.
  11. I remind myself again of the factors I need to bear in mind in deciding to proceed in Mr Green’s absence.
  12. As I say, he has been personally served with the Order of 4th January and, indeed, has had today’s date specifically pointed out to him by the process server, so there is no question that he knows about today.
  13. There has been no contact from Mr Green so the Court has no good reason, indeed no reason at all, for his not attending. It is in line with his lack of engagement throughout and, as I say, he is fully aware of his right to public funding. Further, the previous Order pointed out that in his absence, the Court might well decide to proceed in any event.
  14. An adjournment is an option. That would have to involve the issue of a bench warrant which would mean the bailiff having to try and effect an arrest. That is not, at least administratively, an easy thing to organise in that the arrest effectively could happen at any time according to Police/Bailiff availability. The Court would then have to be faced with trying to contact the Applicant and they would have to organise representation before the Court at very short notice. As I say, this is a situation brought about solely by Mr Green himself.
  15. I appreciate proceeding in his absence is potentially prejudicial to him but that, as I say, is something he has brought on himself and bearing in mind the overriding objective, the need to deal with matters expeditiously, albeit fairly, it seems to me the right approach is to proceed because Mr Green has had every chance to engage, he has chosen not to and to put this matter off just causes further delay, cost and, indeed, stress to other residents who have been affected by his behaviour and no doubt want to see the matter brought to a conclusion.
  16. So far as sentencing is concerned, I am aware of the now well known case of Lovett v Wigan Borough Council decided in the Court of Appeal in December 2022 which set out the particular factors to bear in mind and gave a very helpful sentencing grid.
  17. I remind myself the purpose of sentencing is to ensure compliance, that is the first purpose; second, punishment; and third, rehabilitation. The options, unfortunately, in the Civil Courts are relatively limited. Effectively they are either committal, immediate or suspended, to adjourn, the penalty, or a fine.
  18. An adjournment is not likely to achieve anything given that Mr Green is not engaging with the process and I simply have no information on which to base a fine, so that limits the options even further.
  19. If I am thinking about custody, the first question to ask myself is has the custody threshold been passed? In my view, in this case it has and I bear in mind when I say that, in particular the impact of Mr Green’s behaviour on others, that I witnessed when I took evidence from the persons that I have already referred to.
  20. So far as precise sentencing is concerned and I accept Mr Dukes’ submission that this is what is categorised as a category 2 harm case.
  21. It is not minor. That was apparent from the evidence that I have already received but it is not of the highest order either, so category 2 seems to me to be appropriate.
  22. I also would accept it is culpability B. It is not the highest culpability but again, aside from that, it is certainly not the lowest either.
  23. The starting point for for a category 2, culpability B case is one month imprisonment, with a range of three months to an adjournment.
  24. So far as mitigation is concerned, well, on the one hand I am not told there has been any repetition, that is an important factor but otherwise the Court has no indication of contrition. Mr Green has not come before the Court to apologise or, indeed, apologise to others affected by his behaviour. Further, these are the first breaches.
  25. I am not aware of any aggravating factors, as such.
  26. The most serious of the allegations to my mind are in allegation 2 and I see no reason to depart from the starting point for that allegation which is one month imprisonment. I do take the view that that would be excessive for allegation 1, which was the less serious, particularly if the sentences were added together and it seems to me that an appropriate sentence for allegation 1 is 14 days. The sentence is to run consecutively because they are two separate incidents on separate days, I come to a total of six weeks in all.
  27. The question then is immediate or suspended?
  28. I think the important factor in this respect is that these are the first breaches and, as Lovett recognises, the common approach by way of requiring compliance and ensuring compliance is to suspend in the first instance, sending a very clear message to the perpetrator, in this case Mr Green, about the impact of his behaviour and what will happen if there is any repetition.
  29. So I am going to suspend the sentence and I will suspend it for a period of one year from today and the terms of the suspension will be strict compliance with the terms of the injunction.
  30. So, in short, it is a sentence of six weeks in all, suspended for one year on compliance with the injunction.
    (Discussion re costs follows)
  31. I will say the defendant to pay the claimant’s costs summarily assessed at £2,055. If I say 4pm, 28 days, whether that converts to anything, Mr Dukes, I do not know but it is obviously a liability that Stonewater have got if they choose to enforce it. I will draw the Order on the usual format. That will need to be personally served in due course because it is obviously a Committal Order, albeit suspended.
  32. Hopefully that will be the last of it but time will tell.
    (Judgment ends)