Committal for Contempt of Court in Open Court at the County Court sitting at Walsall: Robinson

|Contempt of Court

Claim No. C00WJ855

The County Court at Walsall

30 May 2017

 

Before:

His Honour Judge Gregory

Between:

Walsall Housing Group – Applicant

-v-

William Robinson and Lindsay Robinson – Respondents

Judgment approved by the Court

APPROVED JUDGMENT

  1. THE JUDGE: Walsall Housing Group is a provider of social housing.  Such housing is in short supply and very precious.  On 21st March 2016, it granted a five-year fixed term tenancy to William Robinson of 116 Cardan Pointe, Art Court at the waterfront.  Shortly after Mr Robinson moved into that flat, his neighbours began to experience problems through antisocial behaviour, principally noise nuisance through shouting and screaming, the banging of doors and suchlike.  In order to try and make their life more bearable, Walsall Housing Group sought protection for them by applying for an injunction to restrain Mr Robinson from causing or permitting such behaviour to continue.  He attended court on 9th September 2016 when he gave an undertaking to the court that he would, in short, desist from such antisocial behaviour and ensure that nobody else engaged in it.
  2. That undertaking was breached on many occasions and the matter came back to court on 6th January 2017 pursuant to a committal application. On that occasion, many breaches were conceded and a committal order for twelve weeks was made, concurrent on each breach, such order suspended upon condition that he comply with his undertaking.  By then, if not long before, it was quite apparent that the real problem at this address was the behaviour of his daughter, Lindsay Robinson, who was effectively living there with him, although no such notification had been given to Walsall Housing Group and its permission not sought.
  3. In order to prevent her behaving in that way, an injunction was made on 6th January 2017 forbidding William Robinson from permitting a particular person to enter 116 Cardan Pointe. At the time that that order was made, it was not known by Walsall Housing Group who the person that he was permitting to reside there with him was.  He was asked to name her and he gave a name Donna Bell and so it was in that name that the injunction was drawn.  That was a false name.  Not to put too fine a point on it, he lied to the court when he gave that name.  Consequently, a rather meaningless injunction was made restraining him from allowing said Donna Bell from entering 116 Cardan Pointe.
  4. Over the ensuing weeks, commencing within seven days of the making of the suspended committal order, the neighbours in Cardan Pointe experienced further noise nuisance repeatedly. Again the author of this noise was the woman who was living with Mr Robinson who we now know to have been Lindsay Robinson.  This led to a further application for his committal issued on 27th March 2017.  That matter has come before me today.
  5. At this hearing, Walsall Housing Group has been represented by Mr Douglas-Jones, and Mr William Robinson by Miss Talbot, both counsel. Miss Talbot has been considerably handicapped by being instructed only on Friday of last week, having no real instructions, apart from the fact that Mr Robinson does not want to go to gaol, and no client today because he has not bothered to turn up.  Nevertheless, she has done her best.
  6. I have heard sworn evidence from Angela McCann, William Reeves and Malcolm Shepherd, all neighbours. I unhesitatingly accept that the evidence that they have given me was honest, truthful and reliable.  I am, therefore, satisfied, and find as a fact, that there have been a further 14 breaches of the undertaking given on 9th September 2016.  That means that Mr Robinson has failed to comply with the condition upon which the term of imprisonment was suspended on 6th January 2017.
  7. The usual consequence of that is that the term should be implemented, so he should be arrested and carted off to Her Majesty’s Prison, Winson Green or possibly Featherstone, with a further period of imprisonment on top in relation to the breaches which he has been proven to have committed.
  8. That, however, is not the whole story. Let me make it abundantly plain to Mr Robinson’s unfortunate neighbours that if he was still living in that flat at Cardan Pointe, he would go straight to gaol today for a lengthy period of time.  I have been reminded by Miss Talbot that the approach to dealing with breaches of injunctions or undertaking is a dual-purpose approach.  The court is entitled and enjoined to mark its disapproval of somebody failing to comply with a court order or a solemn promise made to the court, but the court is also keen to secure future compliance to prevent the type of behaviour which has given rise to the problems in the past.
  9. In April 2017, Mr Robinson signed a deed of surrender for his two-bedroomed ground-floor apartment. It was on 11th April that this deed of surrender was made and it is to be found at page 181 of the trial bundle.  Thereafter, it is plain from the evidence of Debbie Davies, as Community Safety Officer with Walsall Housing Group, that he has endeavoured to obtain alternative accommodation: firstly, a one-bedroomed flat; secondly, an alternative property in Walsall.  Neither of those attempts was apparently successful.  He has spoken to her and expressed considerable fear of the prospect of going to gaol and he has fully understood that the only real prospect he has got of avoiding that is by leaving this property so that it may be taken back into the useable housing stock of Walsall Housing Group and allocated to somebody who will ensure that they do not misuse it and nor does anybody else.
  10. I have heard evidence from in particular Mr Shepherd which suggests that, although Mr Robinson failed to fulfil his promises to leave some weeks ago, he has effectively vacated the property now. It appears that his last night there was last night when he slept on the floor and he has now gone.
  11. I have recently spent two weeks sitting in the Crown Court in Coventry dealing with serious criminal matters. I am well aware that the prisons in this country are close to full and I very much take the view that prisons should be reserved for criminals unless there is simply no alternative.
  12. Mr Robinson is not guilty of criminal misconduct. The reality is that he has shown himself to be a weak man, wholly incapable of controlling the behaviour of his daughter and wholly incapable of recognising his responsibility to his neighbours to ensure that everybody can live in peace and harmony.  He has done, if may say, the decent thing at the eleventh hour by simply going.  He, it appears from the evidence of Debbie Davies, has found nowhere of his own to go to but has arranged to become a lodger with his sister.
  13. He is a man now aged 68. He had the privilege and the pleasure of a two-bedroomed ground-floor flat at the waterfront.  Nobody, it seems to me, would sensibly and voluntarily exchange that pleasant independent accommodation, with some thoroughly nice neighbours (because I have seen them), for lodging in a spare room at his sister’s at the age of 68.  It is the evidence of Debbie Davies that he is effectively devoted to his daughter and extremely protective of her.  That is what has brought him to this sorry state of affairs.  I cannot see that any sensible point can be secured by having him take up a place in prison which should be occupied by a criminal.
  14. I propose to sentence him to four months’ imprisonment concurrent on each of the existing breaches, suspended for six months upon terms that he keeps away from 116 Cardan Pointe and does not return to that address at any time for any reason. I make no order on the breaches because I have taken the breaches into account in making that order.