SENTENCING – CIVIL PROCEDURE – LOCAL GOVERNMENT
ALCOHOL ABUSE : BREACH OF INJUNCTION : EMERGENCY SERVICES : SENTENCE LENGTH : PERSISTENT BREACHES OF INJUNCTION : UNNECESSARY CALLS TO EMERGENCY SERVICES
A sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment imposed upon an alcoholic woman who had repeatedly breached an injunction prohibiting her from making unnecessary telephone calls to the emergency services was not manifestly excessive.
The appellant (B) appealed against a decision of a judge to commit her to prison for 12 months for breaching the terms of an injunction obtained by the respondent local authority. B had a history of alcohol abuse and, when drunk, she made numerous unnecessary telephone calls to the emergency services. The local authority obtained an interim injunction against B but she breached it within a month, and the injunction was made permanent. After a further breach she was imprisoned. Following her release she again breached the injunction and was remanded on bail. Another breach led to the imposition of four months’ imprisonment. Again, following her release, she reoffended and was committed to prison for 12 months. Before the instant proceedings, B had been through detoxification in prison. She had also been undergoing counselling, and attending Alcoholics Anonymous classes. B submitted that despite the aggravating factors the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive. She argued that the maximum period of imprisonment available to the judge was two years, so the sentence imposed was at the halfway point of the sentencing powers when it was not a case of commensurate gravity.
HELD: The sentence was not greater than that which could legitimately be imposed. The judge had been entitled to find that B’s breach called for a heavy sentence to impress upon her the importance of compliance with the injunction. In the circumstances it was steep but it was not improper, and it was a sentence for persistent contempts that was capable of being mitigated by B herself, by making an application to purge her contempt. It would be a surprise if the judge would not look favourably upon such an application given the steps B had taken while in prison.
For the appellant: Nadia Mansfield
For the respondent: Andrew Lane
For the appellant: Scutt Beaumont
For the respondent: Local authority solicitor
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