Committal for contempt of Court in Open Court in the County Court sitting at Bristol: Ford

|Contempt of Court

Case No: C01BS424

Bristol Magistrates Court

30 September 2016

Bristol City Council


Lee Ford

Sentencing remarks

District Judge Watkins:

On 8 July 2016, District Judge Cope sitting in the County Court Bristol made an order against you forbidding you from doing a number of things, including Using intimidating or threatening behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment or distress to any person living in visiting or otherwise engaged in lawful activity at 28 Carolina House Dove St in Bristol or in the locality of that property from assaulting or threatening to assault any person living in visiting or otherwise engaging in unlawful activity in Carolina House or the locality thereof from shouting screaming banging playing loud amplified music or making any other noise in 28 Carolina house or any part thereof.

That order was made by District Judge Cope without you being aware that the application was being made to the court. You were given a copy of Judge Cope’s order on 9 July 2016. On 29 July 2016, a date that you were informed of,  Deputy District Judge T. Brown continued District Judge Cope’s order, which is to last until 7 July 2017. You were served with this later order, and were aware of it.

Having been served with the orders of this court, on 18 September 2016 two police officers (police Constables Emery and Purchase) went to Dove Street having been called to attend by members of the public. The police officers saw you sitting in the middle of the road with no top on. In your possession was a 2 L bottle of an alcoholic drink which was said to be half empty. You were seen looking towards a lady who was slouched on the floor leaning against the railings with a lump on her head and blood running down her face. As the police officers came towards you, you shouted at a member of the public who was present “I’m going to fucking kill you”. You were continually abusive while the police officers continued in their approach, and they have recorded in their witness statements that I have read you using the words “fuck”, “fucking” and “cunt” on a number of occasions to a group of four or five members of the public who were at the scene observing. You shouted “I’m going to fucking kill you, come on then”. One of the police officers sought to restrain you from going towards that group of people and asked you to calm down, but you continued to shout and swear.

The police officers describe in their witness statements that people walking past observing the incidents being alarmed and distressed by your behaviour. The police officers formed the impression, understandably, that you were intoxicated and possibly on drugs. They record that what you said to them simply made no sense. Eventually, you walked towards Carolina House saying you were going home.

Having departed the scene, the police officers were called back when a further call was made, this time by a police community support officer. You were found shouting at another member of the public “fucking come on then, I’m going to fight and kill you, you cunt” You are the recorded as saying “I used to be in the army; I kill people”. The police officers took the decision in the circumstances that you should be arrested for an offence under the Public Order Act, they having warned you about your behaviour and you then having continued to act in a manner that alarmed members of the public.

Having been arrested, you continued your abuse, threatening, in terms, to shoot one of the police officers with a .50 calibre rifle.

After your arrest, you were produced before the magistrates court on 19 September 2016, and entered a plea the first available opportunity to an offence under section 4A of the Public Order Act. That offence was committed in course of the behaviour that I have already described. Having entered your plea, the matter was adjourned to the Magistrates court today for sentence. I will return to the sentence that was passed upon you shortly.

The day after your appearance before the Magistrates, on 20 September 2016, you were produced before His Honour Judge Ambrose sitting as a Judge in the County Court, albeit in the Bristol Magistrates Court. Judge Ambrose was aware that you were being dealt with by the magistrates court, and adjourned consideration of your admission of being in breach of the injunction I have referred to, until at today.

Today, I have had the benefit of hearing from your solicitor, Mr O’Donnell, who has set out what happened before the Magistrates Court this morning and has explained to me something of your personal circumstances, which he asks me to take into account.

You are in breach of an order made by this court, as you were acting in a threatening manner in the locality of Carolina House. Being in breach of a court order is a serious matter. I have to consider what punishment I should pass upon you for being in breach of the court’s order. In considering what punishment I should pass upon you, I have to have regard to the definitive guidelines “breach of an antisocial behaviour order” published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council.

It is submitted (and there is no significant challenge) that yours is a “lesser degree” breach of the order. In following the guidelines, the starting point for you is six weeks custody, the range being a community order to 26 weeks custody. In passing sentence upon you, I have the benefit of a pre-sentence report that was prepared for your appearance before the magistrates court this morning. That is a report prepared by Conor Wilkinson a Bristol-based probation officer. I have read the report that sets out much detail about you and your behaviour, before coming to a recommendation as to the sentence the court might pass on you. I take that report and its contents into account.

I am told this morning you received a community order for a period of six months. Attached to that community order were a number of requirements; you are to participate in an alcohol treatment requirement programme for a period of six months, and, in addition, you are the subject of a rehabilitation activity requirement for 10 days. That sentence is clearly designed to help you with the personal difficulties that you have. As to your personal

difficulties I take account what was said to me by Mr O’Donnell submissions to me, the pre-sentence report, and I also take into account the report dated 19 September of this year prepared by the Avon and Somerset NHS by Lucy Russell, dealing with mental health issues. In that report, while saying that she does not identify any enduring mental health issues that require assessment under the mental health act,MS Russell does recognise that you have been struggling with emotional difficulties. She sets out in her report that you have been having suicidal thoughts. It is clear from that report, together with the probation services report, that you have struggled with use and abuse of alcohol for some time. The probation officer recorded that having been in this nation’s service in the military, you have post-traumatic stress disorder issues that are recorded as “verified “.

I am told that you receive medication that helps deal with those issues.

I have to consider what sentence I should pass upon you, and in so doing I take account of the guidelines of which I have spoken I have regard to the case of Lomas v Parle [2003] EWCA Civ 1804. In passing sentence upon you today I have to have regard to the sentence that was passed by District Judge (MC) Matthews sitting in the magistrates court earlier on today. Both Mr Denford and Mr O’Donnell have said to me in light of that authority that you should not be punished twice for the same offence.

Mr O’Donnell, on your behalf, invites me to pass a modest sentence of imprisonment if I am satisfied this matter crosses the custody threshold, that is to say it is so serious that a that only a sentence of imprisonment is sufficient. In the circumstances of this case, having regard to the behaviour that I have already set out, I am of the view that your breach of this injunction was serious, not simply in the manner in which it was breached but also the period of time after the order was served upon you was short.

I have come to the conclusion that a sentence of imprisonment is appropriate in your case, but I must consider whether it is a sentence that should be of immediate effect or not. This is the first time that you have been produced before this court for breach of this order, and I take that into account. Secondly, you are the subject of an order made by District Judge (MC) Matthews this morning that requires you not only to comply with the direction of a probation officer but also carry out two programs I have identified.

In the circumstances of your case, I consider that the starting point for passing sentence upon you is the six weeks imprisonment that is identified in the sentencing Council guidelines.

You have before this Court admitted your breach of the injunction at the first available opportunity. In my judgement, that fact is to be taken into account in the sentence that I pass upon you. Consistent with the approach taken by the criminal courts, I reflect your admission in reducing your sentence by one third. Consequently, the sentence that should be passed upon you for this breach is four weeks custody. I am satisfied in the circumstances of your case (and I thank Mr O’Donnell for his assistance on this point as no doubt you will also) that it is appropriate in the circumstances of your case to suspend that term of imprisonment.

I will do so for a period of six months. That sentence walks hand-in-hand with the sentence that District Judge Matthews passed upon you earlier. From today there will be a condition attached to the sentence that I pass upon you; that i you will continue to comply with the order that was made by Deputy District Judge T Brown earlier on this year. The effect of the sentence that I pass upon you is that today you will be released, but you must understand that you are being released subject to a continuing order and to the threat that if you are in breach of the order that this court has made over the next six months, then in addition to any sentence for any further breach that may be proved against you, you can also expect to serve the four weeks that I have passed upon you. Is that understood? (“yes sir”).

District Judge Watkins
Friday, 1 October 2016