Committal for contempt of court: Leigh Tilbrook -v- Bethany Crankshaw

Family CourtCommittal for Contempt of Court

Case Number: LE23P00201

In the Family Court
and in the matter of contempt of court

19 March 2024


His Honour Judge Redmond


Leigh Tilbrook


Bethany Crankshaw


  1. These are committal proceedings for contempt of court in respect of alleged
    breaches of a prohibited steps order which contained a penal notice. As to the
    procedure and factors to consider below, the court has been at all times guided
    by Part 37 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, as amended, and the summary
    provided by Macdonald J in MCC [2023] EWHC 1248 (Fam), particularly those at
    paragraph 26. All hearings of this matter have been in open court and marked
    publicly on the court lists.
  2. A prohibited steps order was made originally on 24 August 2023 by the
    magistrates. The order arising out of that hearing was appealed and on 21
    September 2023, Her Honour Judge Patel confirmed the prohibited steps order.
    On 14 December 2023 she added a penal notice to that order. Subsequent
    communications with the court display the accepted common ground that the
    parties were both fully aware of the order and the penal notice.
  3. The prohibited steps order was in the following terms: “the respondent mother is
    prohibited from allowing the children [child A and child B] to spend any time with
    [adult Z]”.
  4. It is not for this court to enquire as to the order, which was made originally by
    magistrates, appealed and maintained by the appeal court. Those are matters for
    the substantive proceedings.
  5. The claimant alleged the order was breached and issued a compliant application
    on 14 February 2024. In line with case law, it was decided that I would be allocated
    the contempt proceedings to be heard separately from the substantive
    applications being dealt with by HHJ Patel.
  6. I gave directions for the committal proceedings to come before me for a hearing in
    open court on 6 March 2023 and reiterated in that order the rights of the
  7. The claimant alleged a variety of breaches in some wide-ranging evidence some
    of which was produced and some was not, but at that hearing conducted on 6
    March 2023 before me, he distilled his wide-ranging evidence into the following
    focused allegations occurring on the same day:
    a. That the defendant allowed [adult z] to be present at her home address at
    [address] on 28 January 2024 whilst the children were also present.
    b. [adult z] was allowed to escort [child A] alone and put them in the
    defendant’s car.
    c. [adult z] was then in the defendant’s car with both [child A and child B]
    when the defendant drove away.
  8. As to the focused allegations above, there was clear and ample evidence to
    support them.
  9. The defendant was reminded in the application notice, the order made by me and
    at the start and throughout the hearing of her right to silence. She was represented
    by counsel. She wished to make sworn admission to the breaches and did so in
    oral evidence where I once again reminded her of her right to silence and that were
    she to dispute them I would give directions and arrange a separate hearing to hear
    that evidence. However, having given time for reflection with her counsel, I was
    satisfied that she made the admissions freely.
  10. I found beyond a reasonable doubt, according to the admissions made that she
    had breached the order by allowing 4(a-c) above to occur in knowledge of the
    prohibited steps order and the penal notice attached to it. I confine myself to the
    breaches as alleged.
  11. Following the guidance referred to above, I adjourned the matter for sentencing
    and to allow an opportunity for the contempt to be purged.
  12. I received a further statement from the defendant, again having carefully advised
    her of her right to silence. In it she seeks to purge her contempt and puts forward
    mitigation. I have carefully considered all that is put forward both in terms of
    mitigation and of her request to purge her contempt.
  13. Sentencing should, and has, proceeded as a separate exercise. The claimant
    seeks for a fine to be imposed, which is said to mark the seriousness of the
    breach. The disposal must be proportionate to the seriousness of the contempt,
    reflect the court’s disapproval and be designed to secure compliance in the
  14. I do not consider that the breach as found, on a first breach and otherwise in the
    course of highly emotional and contested Children Act proceedings, would
    warrant compulsion by way of imprisonment. I have regard to the defendant’s
    means and noting her to be on benefits. Upon the mitigation received, including
    admissions at the earliest opportunity and her means as set out and accepted, I
    impose a fine which I consider is proportionate in the amount of £150. I reach that
    decision taking into account the order has been in existence for a lengthy period
    of time, that it has been unsuccessfully appealed and maintained by the appeal
    court and that a penal notice was clearly added to it when it was suggested that it
    was not being complied with. I consider that reaches a balance that is described
  15. However, I have also fully taken into account the attempts to purge the contempt
    by the defendant who has said to me that she fully and unreservedly apologises
    for the breach. I have also taken into account the very obvious distress to her from
    this proceedings noted by me in the witness box.
  16. Having imposed a fine, I further find that the defendant has purged her contempt
    and therefore the fine is not payable by her. However, the breach is appropriately
    marked and found and the defendant is in no doubt as to the seriousness of the
  17. This judgment will be uploaded as required to the appropriate archives.
  18. By way of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, Part 30, the defendant has an
    automatic right of appeal to the High Court of Justice and such would need to be
    made within 21 days of this decision.
  19. I will consider costs upon further submissions.