Committal for Contempt of Court: Wigan Borough Council -v- Brown

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Claim Number: K00WN506

In the County Court at

23 January 2024

District Judge Powell

Wigan Borough Council
Andrew Brown


Before District Judge Powell sitting at the County Court at Wigan, Wigan And Leigh Courthouse, Darlington Street, Wigan, WNl lDW.

Before District Judge Powell sitting at the County Court at Wigan, Wigan And Leigh Courthouse, Darlington Street, Wigan, WNl lDW.

This is the matter of Wigan Borough Council v Andrew Brown.K00WN506

Background to this matter is that on 27 July 2023 Deputy District Judge Mulrooney made a without notice Antisocial Behaviour Injunction Order.

There was a power of arrest was attached to that order. On 4 August 2023 the Defendant was arrested on account of an alleged breach of the aforementioned interim order of Deputy District Judge Mulrooney on 2 August 2023 and brought before myself at Wigan County Court

On 4 September 2023 the Claimant submitted a contempt application attaching a schedule of alleged breaches of the injunction order dated 27 July 2023 supported by a witness statement of Lauren Howard and Weissam Alkabboli. The schedule of allegations included allegations in relation to the alleged breach in respect of which the defendant had been arrested and a number of additional breaches which occurred between 19 August and 31 August 2023.

Mr Brown has admitted all of these allegations this morning.

I have heard from Mr Brown’s representative Mr Taylor that he now recognises that his conduct was unacceptable and in breach of the Order of this court and seeks to apologise for that conduct and that he attributes his behaviour to the misuse of alcohol.

I pause to note that being intoxicated is no Defence to the crime of Contempt.

Before setting out the detail of the sentence that I propose to impose in this case, as is my duty, I remind the

Defendant that pursuant to section 13 of the Administration of Justice Act the relevant Court of Appeal in this case is either to a Circuit Judge or the Court of Appeal but the normal route would be to a Circuit Judge who will consider whether the matter ought to be transferred to the Court of Appeal pursuant to it’s power to do so set out in CPR rule 52.23. For the avoidance of doubt no permission is not required for an appeal in this instance.

I move on to consider the sentence itself being mindful at all times of the guidance provided to this court by the Court of Appeal in the cases of Lovett and Wigan Borough Council, Smith and Network Homes Ltd and Hopkins v Optivo 2022. In those cases which was a joint appeal the Lord Justices set out helpful guidelines to this court with regards to sentencing for contempt of court.

Unlike the criminal court, emphasis, in a civil court case is on the importance of the objective of ensuring future compliance. Part One of the Anti Social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, pursuant to which the injunction was made at first instance in this case, made it clear that the objectives in sentencing for a breach of an injunction order and therefore applicable in civil contempt are, in this order;

  1. ensuring some future compliance with the injunction order
  2. punishment
  3. rehabilitation

In order to follow this guidance, the first step is to determine the seriousness of the breaches and this depends upon my assessment of culpability and harm.

In this instance I am invited by Mr Taylor to consider that in terms of culpability this is a case where there is a deliberate breach falling between the categories of A High culpability for a very serious breach or persistent serious breaches and category C for lower culpability for minor breaches.

I agree with this assessment because while it is the first breach of this order which occurred in very short order after the original order was made, I am concerned about the aggressive nature of the threats made to his neighbour and not least because of the racial nature of the same.

I go on to consider the level of harm that has been caused and again I agree with Mr Taylor that it has to be Category 1 given the extent of the threats made and the persistent nature of the same which caused his neighbours distress in their own homes and interruption of their quiet enjoyment thereof as evidenced by his neighbour’s impact statement.

The 2nd step is therefore to use the “noughts and crosses board” as it has been described to be by Mr Taylor today to identify the starting point and category range to be adopted and in this instance it is agreed that the starting point is 3 months and that the category ranges from “adjourned sentence” to 6 months imprisonment.

I have then asked myself whether I am satisfied that the custody threshold has been met and/or is the appropriate order to be made today one of adjourning sentence. Mr Taylor I am not with you that I should adjourn sentence today notwithstanding the helpful guidance that I have been provided with in the report of Dr Rojo with regards to the likely effect on the Defendant of my sentencing him today as I am satisfied that I should sentence today in Order to ensure future compliance with the Order of this court.

I should also say that I am satisfied that the custody threshold has been met, not least because this has been conceded by Mr Taylor on behalf of his client.

I remain mindful that any sentence must be just proportionate and that where there is more than one breach and each breach attracts a separate sentence, that I must look at the totality of those sentences and whether they should run concurrently or consecutively, in order to ensure that the end result achieves that aim.

In my judgement immediate custody should be reserved for the most serious cases and for less serious cases where other methods of securing compliance with the order have failed. A custodial sentence should never be imposed if an alternative course might be sufficient and appropriate.

I am of course mindful that each case is fact sensitive and the particular circumstances of this case which weigh in mitigation are as follows;

  1. that the defendant has admitted the breaches today
  2. that this is the first breach of the order in this instance
  3. that he has, today, showed a level of contrition.
  4. I also note that that there has been a period of compliance since the end of August 2023 with the original injunction Order and I am aware that end August was about the time that a suspended sentence was imposed by another court and so consider that it may be an indication that this sort of order would be sufficient to ensure compliance whilst at the same time imposing a measure of promised punishment.
  5. I am also mindful that Mr Brown has in fact had a period of punishment albeit a short one as a result of being detained overnight on arrest.
  6. And finally I consider rehabilitation and note that Mr Brown has indicated an intention to seek treatment for his alcohol dependency which is to my mind the root cause of his conduct and also assistance with his mental health which I don’t doubt has played some part as well and feel I should give him the opportunity to engage with these services (and strenuous encourage him to do so) though whilst at the same time I must remind him of the possible consequences of his failure to take this opportunity.

Applying all of the above guidance and pleas in mitigation to my sentencing powers today and applying the helpful guidance of Mr Taylor it is my judgement that Mr Brown should be sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for each breach to be served concurrently so that he would serve no more than 3 months in totality, but that this should be suspended for 8 months until end September 2024 which is when the interim injunction expires pursuant to my Order of 2nd October or the remainder of the term of the Final Injunction whatever that may be, whichever is the later.

Now perhaps we can consider the criminal proceedings are at a conclusion and consider separately as if this were a separate hearing the issue of the final injunction order.

Having been told now that the Final Injunction Order has been agreed without amendment and is to expire on 19th January 2025 then to make it clear my sentence of 3 months is suspended until 19th January 2025.

Dated 19 January 2024