North Yorkshire County Council v George Elliot



Judge: Her Honour Judge Anderson

Citation: [2019] EWCOP 37

Summary

Mr Elliott was the subject of a sexual harm prevention order preventing him from having contact with children under 16.  In circumstances that are not described in the judgment, he had come into contact with a young woman who had been declared to lack capacity to make decisions about contact with others on the basis that she did not understand the risk posed by people with whom she might come into contact and lacked the ability to weigh up the pros and cons of having contact with them.

An injunction was made against him in Court of Protection proceedings preventing him from contacting or attempting to contact the young woman, whether directly, face-to-face or indirectly by any means whatsoever including telephone, texting or messaging, email, Skype, FaceTime or through any social media platform including, but not limited to, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.

The injunction was subsequently amended to make it clear to Mr Elliot that the injunction included a prohibition on any communications with P, even if initiated by P. This was done by substituting the word “contacting” with the word “communicating”.

Mr Elliot admitted three deliberate breaches of the injunction within hours of the injunction having being made to the court and having been explained to him by the judge.

In proceedings brought for contempt against Mr Elliott, the court took into account in mitigation the fact that Mr Elliot had blocked P from Facebook and all the other ways of communication available to them through social media.

The court sentenced Mr Elliot to imprisonment for twenty eight days in respect of the first breach suspended for one year, for a period of imprisonment of twenty-eight days in relation to breach number 2, again suspended for one year, and twenty-eight days’ imprisonment in relation to breach number 3, again suspended for one year, with the sentences to be concurrent.

Comment

Whilst the precise nature of the relationship between Mr Elliott and the woman in this case is not clear from the judgment, this case is a reminder that, despite the treatment to which they are subject, it is often the case that a person in a relationship with a sex abuser is keen (at times) to continue the relationship. Thus where injunctions are made against the offender contacting P, the court also has to have in mind that it will often be P who initiates the contact. It is therefore interesting to see how this was dealt with in the Court of Protection proceedings by the use of the word ‘communicating’ rather than ‘contacting’.

The case also gives an opportunity to highlight that the Court of Appeal in Re O (Committal: Legal Representation) [2019] EWCA Civ 1721 has – again – had to make clear that a person who is the subject of a committal application, including an appeal against a committal order, is entitled to publicly-funded representation. Legal aid for committal proceedings is not means tested, and is available as of right, i.e. whether it is in the interests of justice for representation to be provided.

 

CategoryCOP jurisdiction and powers - Contempt of Court Date

Keywords


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