The County Court at Derby
Trent & Dove Housing
- By an order made ex parte on Tuesday, 3 September 2019, the defendant was, amongst other matters, prohibited from being in any part of a geographical area marked on a map attached to the order. A power of arrest was attached to that prohibition.
- The order was served on the defendant on 4 September 2019. A return date had not then been listed.
- On the morning of Wednesday 11 September 2019 at about 0800 hours the defendant was found to be in a property which, it was alleged, was in the prohibited area (Breach), and was arrested and brought before the court that day.
- On appearing in open court on 11 September 2019, the defendant was unrepresented. The claimant appeared by a solicitor.
- The defendant was advised in open court of her right to silence, and her right not to incriminate herself. She was asked if she wished to obtain legal advice (and advised as to the possibility of legal aid), and responded that she did want to seek legal advice, and for that purpose she sought bail. After hearing submissions from the solicitor for the claimant, the defendant was granted conditional bail. She was told that she must return to the court at 10am on Wednesday 18 September 2019, and as to the consequences of her not attending.
- Those consequences included that the matter may proceed in her absence that day and, if the contempt was proven, the court may then proceed to sentence her in her absence.
- The defendant did not attend court on 18 September 2019. There was no legal representation for her at court that day. The court had been advised earlier by court staff that the defendant had called the court that morning (at about 0845 hours) and stated that she would not attend as her driver had let her down, and she could not afford a taxi. The claimant, on being informed of this, sought to pay for a taxi for the defendant so that she could get to court, but issues arose as to the pick-up arrangements, and then the call with the defendant was terminated, and could not be reconnected.
- The court determined that it would proceed in her absence, that day.
- The court heard oral evidence, under oath, from Ms Emma Beeston Bligh of the claimant, who was present in the residential property in the prohibited area where it was alleged the defendant was arrested on 11 September 2019. She confirmed, amongst other matters, the written statement of the arresting police officer PC Matthew Williams (a copy of which the defendant had been provided).
- The court found the Breach proven beyond reasonable doubt. The court proceeded immediately to sentencing.
- The court had regard to the Sentencing Council guidelines applicable to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014. For present purposes the court reduced the suggested custody periods set out in those guidelines given they were predicated on a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment for a criminal offence, whereas this was a civil matter with a maximum of 2 years imprisonment under the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
- The court took as its starting point 16 days (as discounted as mentioned above). The court saw this as a deliberate breach of the order of 3 September 2019. The court found that there were aggravating features, namely the defendant had breached the order soon after it was made, the breach involved a potential risk to a person whom the order was intended to protect, and that person was a vulnerable person. There was no personal mitigation from the defendant, and no other mitigating features.
- The court imposed an immediate custodial sentence of 28 days.
- The claimant sought, and the court ordered, that the defendant pay the claimant’s costs, to be assessed if not agreed, but the assessment and any enforcement of that costs order was not to proceed without a further order of the court.
District Judge MacCuish
County Court at Derby, 18 September 2019