Committal for contempt of Court in Open Court in the County Court sitting at Cardiff: James

|Contempt of Court

In The County Court at Cardiff

Claim No. C70CF045

Cardiff Civil and Family Justice Centre
2 Park Street
Cardiff

12 August 2016

Before:

His Honour Judge Bidder QC

Between:

United Welsh Housing Association – Claimant

-v-

Selina James – Defendant

JUDGMENT APPROVED BY THE COURT

 

JUDGMENT

  1. THE JUDGE: On 27th June 2016, District Judge Howell James made an injunction against this defendant under section 1 of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in these terms: that the defendant was forbidden whether by herself or by allowing, inciting and/or encouraging other persons from:

(a) using or threatening violence, approaching, contacting or otherwise, harassing or causing nuisance to Collette Emmanuel or her family or visitors;

(b) using or threatening violence, approaching, contact or otherwise harassing or causing nuisance or annoyance to any of the officers or contractors of the claimant;

(c) entering or approaching within 100 metres of the claimant’s housing offices at Y Lanfa, Clair Court, West Bute Street, Cardiff, CF10 5FD and above 13 Beddau Way, Caerphilly, CF83 2AX and Adams Court, North Luton Place, Adamsdown, Cardiff.

  1. I should say I see a problem with that order straightaway in the sense that it prohibits contact with officers of the claimant, or contractors of the claimant. It seems to me that that really should be amended by me for future reference, because she has got to contact them in order to discuss the terms of her tenancy and the maintenance of the premises and the gas and electricity installations, for example, at the premises.  I propose to amend the injunction order in due course to allow her to do that.  Otherwise she is going to get confused and so are the officers of the Association.  However, that was the order that was made by Judge James at the request of the claimants, who obviously did not think closely enough about the order that they were imposing.
  2. However, the prohibition against approaching the offices was absolutely clear and a power of arrest was attached to all three of those prohibitions and the order was made until 26th June of 2018.
  3. That was made on the basis of a witness statement – it was made in the absence of this claimant initially – it was made on the basis of a witness statement of Tracey Birch of 27th She is the neighbourhood safety officer for the housing association, and she said in that statement that on 24th June, Miss Emmanuel, who is a neighbourhood assistant, was threatened with violence by the defendant on the way to pick up her child from school.  It was a serious threat of violence in very unpleasant terms, and it does not surprise me in the slightest that Judge James took the view that an injunction was necessary.  In any event, as I say, the order was made without notice.  The return date for the matter coming back before the court so that the claimant and the defendant could be there was 6th July.
  4. There is a statement of 8th July of Mr Reynolds (which is at page 29 of the bundle). He is a process server, and on 27th June 2016 at 4.20 pm he attended at Miss James’ home.  She would not let him in.  He attended there again later on that day and again at 5.15 that day.  At 5.45 pm, Miss Selina James did speak to him and acknowledged it was her.  He told her that he had documents from the county court and she said, “Well, I’m not opening the door.  You need to put them through the letterbox,” so he did.  (Discussion with defendant regarding incident)  Anyway, he put the injunction order with the power of arrest and the original application and Miss Birch’s witness statement through her door.
  5. In introductory discussions I asked Miss James, who is here today, not represented – she should have been represented and she was given the opportunity of getting representation by District Judge James. She spoke to a solicitor then.  She had contacted the solicitor after that hearing.  The solicitor, she tells me, was a criminal solicitor, did not do civil work but she has had ample opportunity to get a solicitor.  She has not done it.  I am not adjourning this matter any further for her to get a solicitor, mainly because I have decided, and indeed I have decided pretty much before I came into court, that I was not going to send her to prison today as long as her attitude was sensible.  It actually has been relatively sensible today.  She has been polite and courteous before me, I should make that clear.  She has come with her mother as well, which helps.  In any event, that was served.
  6. On 28th June, Mr John Owen, who is a security officer for the Association was at the premise of the premises of the Association in West Bute Street, and the defendant turned up there. She should not have turned up there.  She came to reception and asked him whether he was a security officer.  He said, “Yes,” and she just went away.  There was no violence, there was no threat of violence, there was no offensive language.  However, she had had the order.  If she had read it, if she had realised she was not to approach the premises.  It was a clear breach of the order.
  7. She has explained to me today that the reason why she attended the premises was because she had been having difficulties with her, as I understand it, central heating. Obviously it is a gas central heating, but there are electricity connections in order to run it and she had been having difficulty with both.  On the other side, the claimant housing association has a difficulty getting access to the premises in order to check the integrity of the gas appliances because, I think, a certain amount of stubbornness on the part of Miss James, or suspicion, she has not been allowing them to gain access.  I have indicated to her that today is an opportunity for her to speak to the staff of the Association who are here and make sensible arrangements both for them to attend to check the integrity of the gas supply and also for them to attend to check that it is all working so that she is comfortable in the home.  She has also said to me that she thinks it may be time for her to consider a move from the premises.  That is something else she can possibly discuss with them today.  I cannot sort those matters out today.
  8. However, I have been speaking to her and she accepts that there was service of the proceedings, and she agrees she went and saw Mr Owen. There is actually CCTV evidence of that.
  9. Therefore, I am satisfied she was (a) served with the order made by District Judge James and (b) that she breached the order by attending at the premises.
  10. However, I consider that while it was a very rapid breach of the order and thus justifying a term of imprisonment to be imposed as a penalty for contempt of court, it is not necessary for me to make that an immediate custodial sentence. The term I think is appropriate is one of seven days imprisonment.  However, I propose to suspend it on condition that she complies with an amended injunction order until 26th June 2018, or until further order.
  11. I do, however, consider that the order of Judge James should be amended in relation to paragraph (b), and I am going to amend it by adding after “contacting” these words: “otherwise than to discuss the terms of her tenancy or the condition of her premises.”