Committal for contempt of Court in Open Court in the County Court sitting at Willesden: Constantinescu

|Contempt of Court

In The Barnet Family Court

(sitting at Willesden County Court in Open Court)

Case No: BT16F00042

Decision and reasons of

District Judge M.Coleman.

No reference should be made in any report or publication which would lead to the identification of the children in this matter.

The Court is dealing with an application for the committal to prison for contempt of court of Mr. Samuel Constantinescu. An occupation order was made at Barnet Family Court by District Judge Johns on the 15th June 2016. One of the prohibitions of that order was not to come within 20 metres of the home in which the applicant mother, Martina Pearl, lives with the two children of the family.

On the 30th May 2016 District Judge Jabbitt found that Mr Constantinescu had breached the order and he dealt with him on that occasion by way of a fine of £150. Judge Jabbitt warned Mr C that a further breach would be likely to lead to an order for committal to prison for disobeying the court order.  Despite working as a self-employed plumber on a regular basis earning on average between £600-£1,000 per week, that fine has not yet been paid in full.

On the 11th July 2016 and again on the 13th July 2016 the applicant, Ms Pearl, said that Mr Constantinescu came to her home.

She said that on the 11th at about 5pm he rang the doorbell. She looked through her living room window which enabled her to see Mr C standing at the front door. She did not answer the door and called the police. He was shouting for the children to come and see him and she described the shouting as becoming increasingly desperate. One of the children, A, was scared and Ms Pearl called out that the children were not coming to the door. The child could not cope with the shouting and she was screaming and was really upset. The other child, S, was still asleep.

About 6pm he knocked at the door again. The children were eating and he was jumping up and down at the window to try to see into the house. He was shouting out the children’s names.

On the 13th July Ms Pearl left the house at about 8am and he was sitting across the road from the house at an angle of about 45 degrees. A police officer attended as a result of Ms Pearl’s call to them but Mr C had left by the time police attended. The officer measured out the distance and it was 15 paces. He produced a map for the court should the circumference of the permitted 20 metres from the outside of the house and the distance Mr C had been was well inside that circumference at a distance of 15 metres.

Mr C gave evidence under oath. He admitted being there on both occasions but said that on the 13th July he had been more than 20 metres away. He said he had slept in the bushes opposite the house on the night of the 12th.

He said that he goes to the house often.

I rejected Mr C’s evidence. He had no evidence to confirm any measurements and he was only estimating the distance he was from the house. Ms. P on the other hand had evidence of the distance being properly and accurately being measured produced by a police officer.

He concedes, despite being fined previously for contempt of court by breaching the court order, going to the property regularly.

He was completely unremorseful.

Mr C was unrepresented at the proceedings. I advised him very clearly that he was entitled to be represented by a lawyer and could apply for legal aid if he was unable to pay for one, because his liberty was at stake. He refused.

I asked Ms P what the effect of these repeated breaches was on her and the children. She told me that she suffers with anxiety because of Mr C’s behaviour and has panic attacks. She is a teacher and has to take time off work because of the anxiety.

She told me that S misses her father but A, the other child, gets angry and upset and she has to have therapy. She swings from wanting to see her father to not wanting to see him. Her diagnosis is cognitive dissonance. Mr C does not spend any time with the children. Ms P would be agreeable to  Mr C having supervised contact in a centre.

I had to consider how the breach of the occupation order should be dealt with. I consulted the sentencing guidelines for breach of a protective order although the matter was not being dealt with in a criminal court. I considered that this was a serious breach involving more than one occasion and causing significant psychological harm to Ms P and to at least one of the children. I also took into account the previous breach and the fact that the breach was contested.

I was satisfied that the custody threshold was crossed. In considering the length of the order I had to balance the public interest in ensuring the court’s order is obeyed, and ensuring no further breaches occur with the need to keep the order as short as possible in the light of Mr C’s previous good character.  I considered whether there were any reasons why I might suspend the warrant of commitment.

I determine that the order of the court is committal to prison for 12 weeks. I informed Mr C that he is eligible for early release under Prison Service Order 4600 Rule 3.11.

I made no order for costs.

District Judge M. Coleman
11 October 2016.