Case No: PE21P30944
IN THE FAMILY COURT
SITTING IN PETERBOROUGH
The Children Act 1989
Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies
The Applicant, mother is AM
The Respondent, father is WM
The Children, MAM and YM
ORDER OF Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies sitting in Open Court on 11 March 2022 on the application for Committal of WM for breach of an order made on 15 October 2021
Summary for Publication
- On 15 October 2021 a Prohibited Steps Order was made at the conclusion of contested Children Act proceedings. A penal notice was attached to the order. The father WM was present and represented in those proceedings.
- The Prohibited Steps Order provided “20 The father, WM, must not contact or attempt to contact or to communicate with the children, either directly or indirectly, other than during supervised contact as ordered in paragraph 19 and 21 above”
- On 5 November 2021 without the knowledge of the mother (AM) the older child (aged 11) was transported 80 miles from the town where he lived with his mother to his father’s address.
- The father harboured the child and refused to disclose his whereabouts to the police on 5th and 6th November 2021.
- The child was recovered by the police from the father’s car when it was stopped as a result of the continuing police search on 7th November 2021.
- The mother made an application for the father’s committal. The mother was represented.
- The father was represented by Counsel who had represented him at the hearing in October 2021, filed witness statements and gave oral evidence at the hearing.
- The father did not accept that his actions amounted to a breach of the Prohibited Steps Order and claimed he did not communicate with the child during the three days he was harbouring him.
- The breach was proved.
- The father’s mitigation was that he was justified in his actions as he believed the mother had threatened to assault the child. The father showed no remorse and blamed the mother.
- Using the Sentencing Guidelines for Breach of a Protective Order the case fell into Category 2 for harm and Culpability B as a starting point. The aggravating features were that the breach was very shortly after the Prohibited Steps Order was made, there had been a history of disobedience of court orders, there was a serious impact on the children and on the mother, there were no relevant factors reducing the seriousness. There was no admission or acceptance of fault. The case crossed the custody threshold.
- Using the Sentencing Guidelines for imposing a custodial sentence and suspending sentences, the relevant factor indicating it would be appropriate to suspend the sentence was the significant harmful emotional impact on the children in particular on the older child.
- The sentence imposed was 6 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. The terms of the suspension were that the father must comply with the continuing Prohibited Steps order not to contact or attempt to contact or to communicate with the children, either directly or indirectly, other than during supervised contact as ordered by the Court.