Committal for Contempt of Court: Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council -v- Bober

CivilCounty CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: K00WJ451

In The County Court At Walsall

13 March 2024

Her Honour Judge Saira Singh

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
Weronika Bober


MR BIRKS appeared on behalf of the Claimant
THE DEFENDANT appeared In Person


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  1. This is my judgment in committal proceedings brought by the Claimant, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council, against the Defendant, Miss Weronika Bober. The proceedings were brought in respect of alleged breaches of the terms of an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction that was made on 19 July 2023. The injunction had a power of arrest attached to it.
  2. The terms of the injunction were that the defendant:
    “…is forbidden whether by herself or by instructing or encouraging or permitting any other person from:
    (a) entering save by prior written invitation any of the premises set out in subparagraphs (i) to (v);
    (b) damaging or threatening to damage any premises belonging to the claimant, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council;
    (c) using or threatening to use violence against any officer, servant or agent of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council;
    (d) using or threatening to use violence against Elaine Pedley an employee of Cafcass; or
    (e) contacting any officer, servant or agent of Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council or Elaine Pedley of Cafcass save by means of letter, email or telephone”.
  3. The injunction and the power of arrest were to remain in force until 2 July 2025 at 4.00pm unless revoked before that by a further order.
  4. Earlier in this hearing I made findings that all ten of the allegations of breach, which occurred between 18 September 2023 and 25 October 2023, were proven to the criminal standard, beyond reasonable doubt. Those breaches are that the Defendant repeatedly threatened to use violence against the Claimant’s staff and Elaine Pedley of CAFCASS, including threats to “rearrange your body and face”, “shove a knife up your pussy then set you on fire”, “slash you in the throat” and “fucking kill you”.
  5. I now consider the appropriate order to make as a consequence of those breaches.
  6. The Defendant was in attendance at the start of the hearing, representing herself, having been given the opportunity at three previous hearings to obtain legal representation but declining to do so.
  7. As I previously outlined when giving my judgment on the alleged breaches, the defendant wished to leave the court and confirmed that she understood that the consequence of findings of breach against her may be a custodial sentence and that if she was not present in court when the sentence was given, there would be a warrant for her arrest.
  8. In determining the appropriate sentence, I refer to the Court of Appeal decision in Lovett v Wigan Borough Council [2022] EWCA 1631 for the relevant principles.
  9. The objectives of sentencing for civil contempt are to ensure future compliance with the order, punish the offender and secure rehabilitation of the offender.
  10. The powers available to the Court are an order for the immediate committal of the defendant to prison, an order for committal but suspended with conditions, an order adjourning consideration of penalty, a fine or making no order at all on the breaches.
  11. Custody should be reserved for the most serious breaches or for less serious cases where other methods of securing compliance have failed. The custody threshold requires the Court to consider whether the proven breach is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified. The custody threshold must be passed before the Court can consider imposing a suspended term of imprisonment.
  12. I have to consider the concepts of “culpability” and “harm”. There are three levels of culpability: “high culpability” which is likely to involve a very serious breach or persistent serious breaches. Next, a “deliberate breach” which is less serious but is more than a minor breach. Thirdly, “lower culpability” which is likely to involve a minor breach or breaches.
  13. The level of harm is determined by weighing up all of the factors of the case to determine the harm that was caused or was at risk of being caused by the breach. In assessing any risk of harm posed by the breach, consideration should be given to the facts or activity which led to the order being made.
  14. “Category 1” is the most serious where the breach causes very serious harm or distress. “Category 2” is the middle category between 1 and 3. “Category 3” is a breach which causes little or no harm or distress. The grid in Lovett v Wigan provides a starting point for sentencing depending on which category of culpability and harm applies to a given case. There may be aggravating factors that might lead to an increase from the starting point such as a history of disobedience, the particular vulnerability of any victim of the behaviour and whether there were persistent breaches. The Court considers whether there are any mitigating factors that could decrease the sentence which might include genuine remorse, ill-health, age or lack of maturity. An early admission is likely to be a significant mitigating factor.
  15. Turning to the facts of this case as to culpability, the conduct here was deliberate. There is no suggestion that the defendant did not know what she was doing.
  16. In my judgment, the nature of the breaches being threats to use violence against those carrying out their public duties was serious and each breach would fall into Category B.
  17. In terms of harm, the Court has to consider the impact of the breaches and in this regard, I have had before me the affidavits of the claimant’s witnesses who have all had threats made against them. These effectively reflect some of the conduct that gave rise to the injunction being granted in the first place.
  18. I put the breaches in Category 2 falling between a breach causing very serious harm or distress and a breach causing little harm. The range on the grid, based on my assessment of culpability and harm is adjourned consideration to three months, the starting point being one month. I then need to consider aggravating factors and, in this case, the main aggravating factor was there were persistent breaches over a five-week period.
  19. In terms of mitigating factors, in my judgment, there are several. First, I have heard today that the defendant made a full admission when she was interviewed by the police at the time of her arrest. Second, there have been no further breaches since the last incident on 25 October 2023, so almost five months have passed since the last incident.
  20. Third, while the defendant did not file medical evidence, it appeared to be common ground at a previous hearing that she has been the subject of mental health assessments in the past. Fourth, while this cannot excuse her conduct, the Court is aware that there have been difficult Children Act 1989 proceedings involving the defendant who has two children and now, as a result of those proceedings, no longer has contact with those two children so those proceedings have had a disastrous and distressing impact upon her. As I say, that is not an excuse, but may explain her motivation in acting as she did.
  21. In the circumstances, this is a Category B2 case with a range of adjournment to three months, the starting point being one month. I do not consider that any purpose would be served by adjourning consideration of sentencing. I am satisfied that the custody threshold has been met. These were serious threats to use violence against individuals.
  22. In my judgment, the appropriate sentence would be 21 days in prison. Although she has not made admissions in these proceedings, I have heard that the defendant made full admissions to the police on the day of her arrest. In my judgment, that justifies the sentence being reduced to 14 days. Given the time spent on remand, that is one day, the sentence will be reduced to 12 days. That is a concurrent sentence for all ten breaches.
  23. I then turn to consider whether the sentence should be an immediate custodial sentence or a suspended one. There have been no further breaches since 25 October 2023 and in my judgment, in those circumstances, a suspended sentence would be appropriate. The sentence will be 12 days in prison suspended for one year on condition that the defendant complies with the terms of the injunction dated 19 July 2023 which injunction remains in force until 2 July 2025.
  24. The defendant has a right of appeal against this judgment and any appeal would be to the High Court at Birmingham District Registry. Any appellant’s notice must be filed by 4.00pm on 3 April 2024, that is 21 days from today.