Committal for Contempt of Court: The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary -v- Fawcett

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case number: F00BW162

In the County Court at Barrow in Furness

3 October 2023

District Judge Mackley


The Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary

DJ Mackley:

  1. The claimant in this matter is the Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary. The defendant is Darren Richard Fawcett. The defendant was arrested on 20 September 2023 for an alleged breach of an injunction and the Court is required to determine whether this amounts to a contempt of Court and, if so, to determine what penalty should be imposed.


2. The brief background to this matter is as follows. On 6 January 2020 the claimant applied for an anti-social injunction pursuant to section 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. The Court, on that date, granted the application and made an interim anti-social behaviour injunction (“the injunction”). On 10 January 2020, the defendant, appeared in court in respect of a breach of the injunction. As a result of that breach, he was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment, suspended until 5 January 2021.

3. Three days later, on 13 January, he was located at the home of Deborah Meyzene. This was in breach of the injunction. He was found hiding under a bed at her property. The following day, he was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment to run concurrently with the previously imposed sentence.

4. On 28 July 2020, the interim order was made into a final order to run until 27 January 2022 with a power of arrest attached. On 21 September 2020, he appeared before the Court in respect of a further alleged breach. He had handed himself in at the police station, being aware that he was wanted for an alleged breach for being in a prohibited area. He was subsequently brought before the Court and was sentenced to 26 weeks’ imprisonment.

5. On 26 December 2020, Boxing Day, there was a further alleged breach. The documents in the Court file show that he was, once more, at Ms Meyzene’s property thereby being in breach of the injunction. There had been an altercation which appears to have been in relation to him having misplaced his teeth and Ms Meyzene calling the police when he refused to leave. He appeared to the arresting officer to be slightly intoxicated. For that breach he was sentenced to a further 26 weeks’ imprisonment.

6. He appeared once more before the Court on 10 May 2021 having been arrested the previous day for a number of matters, one of which was a further suspected breach of the injunction. The Court, on 10 May 2021, sentenced him to 42 weeks’ imprisonment and extended the anti-social behaviour injunction until 27 January 2023. I have been told that he remained in custody until around 1 October 2021.

7. On 19 November 2021, he was convicted for an offence of harassment. I am told that in early 2022 he was sentenced to 21 months for ABH. I note that the offence was not in relation to Ms Meyzene. He served 10 and a half months of that sentence and was released on 17 January 2023.

8. An application was made on 17 January 2023 for an extension of the anti-social behaviour injunction under section 8 of the Act. That application for the variation was granted and the anti-social behaviour injunction was extended to 29 January 2024. The terms of that injunction are clear. They are that he is forbidden from:
(i) going within 30 metres of 41 Goldsmith Street, Barrow-in-Furness, LA14 53J; and
(ii) going within 30 metres of any premises he knows or reasonably ought to know that Deborah Meyzene, also known as Deborah Haines resides at.

9. A power of arrest was attached to those two paragraphs. I am satisfied that shortly after the order was made it was served upon the defendant at that he was aware of the terms.

10. There has been no further involvement of this Court, until his most recent arrest. The circumstances of the arrest are as follows.

11. There was a call to the police on or around 20 September 2023 from Ms Meyzene’s daughter. She is reported to have said that she was concerned that her mother should not be with the defendant (the implication being that he was present at her mother’s property). The police attended at Ms Meyzene’s property. Ms Meyzene informed the police that the defendant had been intermittently attending at the property. She said she was not aware the injunction was still in place. In her witness statement, produced for this hearing, she states:

“Over the last three weeks, Darren has been at Goldsmith Road intermittently, and I have spoken to his probation staff about him slipping with drink and drugs”.

She goes on to say:

“I was frightened of Darren coming back to Goldsmith Road after a drink and so I gave him a key [to the property]”.

12. He was arrested in the locality of Ms Meyzene’s property and brought before District Judge Todd on 21 September. At that hearing he immediately admitted breaching the injunction.

13. District Judge Todd adjourned the matter to today and listed the matter before me for sentence. She set conditions to the order when she released him on bail. Those bail conditions were that:

a. he resides at 91 Longreins Road, Barrow-in-Furness;
b. he does not contact, instruct or encourage anyone else to contact Deborah Meyzene whether directly or indirectly, whether by telephone, social media, email or any form of communication; and
c. he attends the hearing today.

14. The defendant has not breached the injunction since the last hearing. Neither is it alleged that he has breached the terms of his bail conditions.

The law

15. I am dealing with an application for committal for contempt of court. I have jurisdiction under the Civil Procedure Rules and the Contempt of Court Act 1981. The Contempt of Court Act gives the Court the power to sentence a person for contempt of court, which breach of an anti-social behaviour injunction would constitute. The maximum sentence a Court can impose is a custodial sentence of two years. However, there is a wide range of sentences open to the Court.

16. I have had particular regard to the decision in the relatively recent Court of Appeal case of Lovett and Wigan Borough Council [2022] EWCA Civ 1631 and joined cases. In particular, paragraphs 40 to 57 in that decision:

17. The Court of Appeal had regard to the Civil Justice Council Anti-social Behaviour in Civil Courts guidance and approved the application of such guidance in matters of this nature.

18. In its judgment, the Court of Appeal set out of the objectives of sentencing for breach of a civil injunction. They are threefold:

(1) Ensuring compliance with the order.
(2) Punishment.
(3) Rehabilitation.

19. At paragraph 40, they go on to set out the five options available when dealing with the contemnor. They are:

(1) An immediate order for committal to prison.
(2) A suspended order for committal to prison with conditions.
(3) Adjourning the consideration of the penalty.
(4) A fine.
(5) No order.

20. At paragraph 43, the Court of Appeal observe that custody should be reserved for the most serious breaches and for less serious cases where other methods of securing compliance have failed. They go on, at paragraph 44, to say that if custody is appropriate, the length of the sentence should be decided without reference as to whether or not it is to be suspended. In other words, the Court, first of all, determines what the appropriate sentence is and then considers whether, on the various mitigating factors, it should be suspended, bearing in mind the objectives of sentencing.

21. The Court of Appeal, at paragraph 46, considered the applicability of the Civil Justice Council report and guidance. The guidance approaches sentencing in stages and uses a matrix whereby “culpability” is plotted against “harm” with three categories for each.

22. First of all, the Court is required to determine culpability. There is a range of culpability which the Court may find, ranging from “A”, high culpability, when there is a very serious breach or persistent serious breaches of the order, to “C” lower culpability, being a minor breach or breaches. Falling in between those is “B” which is considered to be a deliberate breach falling between A and C.

23. Thereafter the Court will consider the level of harm. Per Birss LJ at paragraph 48 of Lovett:
“The level of harm is determined by weighing up all the factors of the case to determine the harm that was caused or was at risk of being caused by the breach or breaches. In assessing any risk of harm posed by the breach(es), consideration should be given to the facts or activity which led to the order being made. The three levels of harm are:

Category 1: breach causes very serious harm or distress.
Category 2: breaches falling within Categories 1 and 3.
Category 3: breach causes little or no harm or distress”.

24. The Court then uses these two factors to determine a starting point for sentence by reference to the table. Thereafter, the Court takes into account additional elements which might increase or decrease the seriousness of the breach or which might amount to personal mitigation before determining the sentence. The Court of Appeal reminds the Court that it is a multifactorial exercise of judgment based on the particular facts and circumstances of the case and that a sentence must be just and proportionate.


25. In terms of culpability, this is not the first breach. I am told, and I think this is right, that it is the eighth breach since the original order was made some three and a half years ago. There has been a significant period of time since the last breach; by my reckoning, it is just short of two years. However, for a significant portion of that time (nearly half) Mr Fawcett has been in custody. Whilst that does not prevent him from breaching an order (for example by contacting or instructing somebody else to contact with Ms Meyzene) it does make breaching the order more difficult.

26. In relation to this particular breach, the following circumstances are relevant. It was not reported by Ms Meyzene but by her daughter. Ms Meyzene, tells me that she was not aware that the injunction was in place but there is nothing to suggest that the circumstances were ever such that she felt she needed to call the police or needed to seek the protection of the police. The only complaint she made is upon the police attending at her property when she stated that she is frightened of how the defendant might be if under the influence of alcohol. She stated that she was supporting him and liaising with/speaking to probation about what she perceived as a slip in his behaviour in relation to his drug and alcohol use. There is no report of anti-social behaviour either from Ms Meyzene or from local residents. The absence of such is particularly significant as it was one of the factors that led to the injunction being granted in the first place. It is also significant that Ms Meyzene was present at court today and, when it was said on the defendant’s behalf that she was here to support him, she was nodding her head vigorously in agreement.

27. have had regard to the circumstances which led to the original injunction being made. I have also had regard to the circumstances of the numerous breaches. On many of those occasions, whilst there are no allegations of significant acts of anti-social behaviour, on almost all of them the breach appears to have been deliberate.

28. In terms of this breach, I am satisfied that the defendant knew that he should not have been present at the property. The report he gives in his statement of concern for Ms Meyzene’s mental health provides little by way of mitigation. He knew he should not be there. If he was significantly concerned about her mental health, then he should instead have reported it to a third party or to a professional. However, it is clear from the evidence from him and from Ms Meyzene that he had been attending at her property over a number of weeks on an occasional basis. I am satisfied that this was a deliberate breach.

29. When considering culpability, therefore, I am satisfied that this breach falls within Category A: “high culpability”.

30. Turning, then, to the level of harm. Having considered the witness statement of Ms Meyzene, her attendance today to support the defendant and all the other circumstances of the case, I am find that this is a breach which falls within Category 3: “limited harm or distress”. There is no wider anti-social behaviour reported and no physical harm. Ms Meyzene’s report to the police was that she was frightened of him returning under the influence of alcohol, not that he had done so.

31. The starting point, therefore, is a custodial sentence of one month (set within a range running from an adjourned consideration of the matter to a custodial sentence of three months). I have to take into account the particular factors which may exacerbate or mitigate the matter to arrive at what I consider to be a just and proportionate sentence. Firstly, the defendant admitted the breach immediately. He has undertaken work in the last few months with probation, including attending upon a Building Better Relationships course. I am told, although there has been some slippage, he has made some progress in dealing with substance use and he has engaged and done well. There is nothing to say he has not engaged with probation following his release earlier this year. There have been no breaches of the injunction since his release in January 2023 until the most recent breach. That is a significant period in the context of this matter.

32. I bear in mind the objectives of sentencing. On the basis of the history of this matter, the evidence and my findings, I consider that it is necessary to punish the defendant. The appropriate sentence in this matter is a custodial sentence of 10 weeks. However, when taking into account the mitigating factors, the defendant’s ongoing rehabilitation and the need for future enforcement, I am satisfied that the sentence should be suspended for a period of 12 months on condition of continued compliance with the terms of the injunction.

33. Mr Fawcett, as a result of the breach of the injunction, I find that you are in contempt of Court. You are therefore sentenced to a term of imprisonment for 10 weeks, such to be suspended for a period of 12 months upon condition that you do not appear back before this or any other Court in relation to breach of the injunction.

End of Judgment