Contempt of Court: Sheffield City Council -v- David Rollinson

County CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: J20SE006

In the County Court at Sheffield

5 January 2024


His Honour Judge Robinson


Sheffield City Council


David Rollinson



1. In a written judgment handed down on 29 March 2023, His Honour Judge Sadiq found proved two breaches of an injunction which had been made on 14 March 2022. By that injunction, the defendant was prohibited from entering or being in the direct vicinity of Elm Tree House, Ridgeway Road, Sheffield and by prohibition two, engaging or threatening to engage in abusive, insulting, and intimidating behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or a nuisance or annoyance to any person residing or lawfully visiting Elm Tree House.

2. It is relevant to note that the claimant’s mother lives at 23 Elm Tree House, Ridgway Road, Sheffield, S12 2TW.  The judgment records that she is elderly.

3. The defendant lives in Ridgeway Drive, which is close by, but on the other side of the busy A6102 Ridgeway Road, whose carriageways are separated by a tram track.

4. The breaches which the judge found proven were:
(i) On 26 July 2022 at 2:30pm being in 23 Elm Tree House.
(ii) On 11 August 2022 at 12:15pm being outside 23 Elm Tree House. The judge found that the defendant was verbally aggressive to Sophie O’Brien, the community services officer of the claimant. The judge found that the defendant was shouting at his mother and that he pushed her. In addition, the judge found also that the defendant pushed Mr Garratt[?][0:17:02], a neighbourhood officer. Apparently, the police were called, but no further action was taken by them.

5. In delivering his judgment, the judge under the heading, Sentence, said this:

“16.   I remind myself of the recent guidance given by the Court of Appeal in Lovett & Ors v Wigan Borough Council [2022] EWCA Civ 1631, regarding the proper approach to sentencing for breaches of anti-social behaviour injunctions made under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act [2014], in particular:
(i) The objective of sentencing is to ensure future compliance with the order, punishment, and rehabilitation, in that order;
(ii) The options available to the Court are an immediate order for committal to prison, suspended order for committal to prison with conditions, adjourning consideration of penalty, a fine, or no order;
(iii) [The judge dealt with maximum sentences available];
(iv) [The Judge dealt with suspended sentences];
(v) Distinct consideration should be given to harm and culpability, the three-level scheme proposed by the report of the Civil Justice Council dated July 2020 entitled ‘Anti-Social Behaviour and the Civil Courts’ is a valuable tool and the CJC report grid at annex one of that report is appropriate.

17. Step one is to determine the seriousness of the breach, that depends upon the assessment of the culpability and harm.  Regarding culpability on the evidence, I am satisfied that the defendant’s behaviour falls within culpability band B, since it involves a deliberate breach falling between A and C … Regarding harm, on the evidence, I am satisfied that the defendant’s behaviour falls within category two of harm …

18. Stage two, having determined the categories at stage one, the Court should use the corresponding starting point to reach a preliminary penalty [the judge then reminded himself of various relevant matters].

19. I take into account the following aggravating factors: The second breach involved the defendant (i) verbally abusing on of the claimant’s officers and pushing another; (ii) pushing and verbally abusing his mother who is an elderly and vulnerable person. I take into account the following mitigating factors: (i) The defendant’s previous good character, namely no previous committal proceedings have been brought against him; (ii) there were only two breaches relied upon; and (iii) the actual harm caused was actually limited.

20. In all the circumstances, I have decided to adjourn sentencing for three months, namely to 29 June 2023.  On that date, I will consider sentencing again. Since the injunction expired on 9 February 2023, I will also grant an injunction on the same terms for six months until 12 noon 29 September 2023. If the defendant does not breach the injunction between now and 29 June 2023, no order might well be the result when I consider sentence again. However, if further breaches take place between now and 29 June 2023, a custodial sentence is likely which might or might not be suspended. I trust the defendant will now understand the seriousness with which breaches of the injunction will be considered by the Court and that there will be no repetition. The defendant is entitled to appeal this decision without permission, the Appeal Court is the High Court. That appeal must be commenced within 21 days of the order reflecting this judgment. The defendant has the right to purge the contempt”.

6. As indicated, the original injunction had expired on 9 February 2023 and the judge made a new injunction on the same terms until 29 September 2023.

7. On 19 June 2023, the claimant issued a second committal application alleging breaches of the new injunction on 2 May, 11 June, and 14 June 2023. The details of those alleged breaches are set out in the N600 form as follows:
(i) On 2 May 2023 during the morning, the defendant was stood outside 23 Elm Tree House.
(ii) On 11 June 2023, the defendant was standing outside 23 Elm Tree House.
(iii) On 14 June 2023, the defendant was seen standing outside 23 Elm Tree House.

8. The defendant has been represented by Mr Hewitt of counsel at the hearing today and having taken instructions from the defendant, he indicated to the Court that the defendant was prepared to admit those breaches. Those breaches were accordingly put to the defendant, and he admitted each and every one of them after having been reminded of the Court’s powers of sentencing, namely a maximum custodial period of two years.

9. In mitigation, in advance of the hearing today, the Court received a witness statement dated 11 December 2023 from the defendant. These being committal proceedings, that witness statement is not formally admitted into evidence unless and until the defendant choses to give oral evidence. 

10. In this case, I am grateful to Mr Comb, who represents Sheffield City Council today, for consenting to this witness statement being admitted into evidence without the formality of Mr Rollinson actually going to the witness desk and confirming the contents of his witness statement, which in any event are verified by a statement of truth. 

11. However, Mr Comb did make the point that not necessarily everything in the witness statement was accepted.  Well, that is often the case in instances where mitigation is advanced on behalf of a defendant who falls to be sentenced whether for contempt of court in the Civil Courts or following conviction whether by jury or by guilty plea for an offence in the Crown Court.

12. There are some relevant matters. As foreshadowed in the recitals to the last order I made, the defendant’s mobility is severely impaired. He describes in his witness statement that he was born on 24 December 1986. He was born with a curvature of the spine, and he has had two operations on his spine when he was a child. During the course of the hearing before me, there have been occasions when Mr Rollinson has felt it necessary to stand up because he is in such discomfort. He describes in his witness statement his reliance upon his mother to assist him in many of the activities of daily living. 

13. It was perceived by Mr Comb for Sheffield City Council that this might be with a view to seeking to establish some form of defence, in particular to the three allegations of being present in the vicinity of 23 Elm Tree House in relation to the three breaches forming the subject matter of committal number two.

14. In my judgment, there was nothing in that. Firstly, if it was sought to argue that the injunction order should not have been made it is far too late now to complain about that, there was no appeal. Secondly, I do not necessarily accept that the only person who could have provided assistance with the activities of daily living described by the defendant had to be his elderly mother. In addition, I am firmly of the view that having regard to the evidence that was exhibited to the committal application, the defendant was wise to face up the inevitable and admit those breaches.

15. I take the view that in so far as is relevant, having regard to the penalty I am about to impose, that he should be given maximum credit for his pleas, which essentially were tendered at the first opportunity after he had had an opportunity to take legal advice.

16. Therefore, to penalty. The views of the claimant in committal applications, are always relevant and indeed, the claimant has a right of appeal to the Appeal Court in the event that it considers that the committing judge was too lenient. Hence, the Court will always pay careful consideration to submissions made by the claimant.

17. In this case, Mr Comb has indicated that the Council does not seek to argue that an immediate custodial sentence would be appropriate. Mr Comb also, very realistically, observes that a suspended sentence would not be appropriate either, even if it passed the custody threshold because of the absence of a current injunction, the absence of any intention by the Council to apply for a new injunction and frankly, the inability to set appropriate conditions to any suspension. Nor does the Council seek a financial penalty. The reality is that Mr Comb having indicated that the Council proposes to commence possession proceedings against both the defendant and his mother, both of whom are tenants of the Council, that it would be content if the Court merely marked the fact that there had been five breaches of two separate orders.

18. In the circumstances, I think that that is entirely appropriate. Therefore, in respect of each of the five breaches, I simply make no order other than to observe that the breaches will be recorded in the order which I now make.

19. I must remind the defendant of his right to appeal, in this case, I specify the Court of Appeal as the appropriate appeal court.

20. I will order a transcript of this judgment at public expense which will be posted on the website of the Judiciary of England and Wales.

End of Judgment.