ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE

A sentence of two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, was unduly lenient for 36 incidents of perverting the course of justice by providing false details on behalf of motorists caught speeding or failing to stop at traffic lights. After allowance for the guilty plea, the appropriate sentence was three years’ immediate imprisonment.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1357

In circumstances where the prosecution had appealed against the grant of bail pursuant to the Bail (Amendment) Act 1993 s.1, and through no fault of its own personal service had been impossible within the time limit prescribed by the Act, and where the respondent to the bail appeal had been given oral notice and was legally represented by lawyers aware of the written notice and of its terms, a failure to serve the written application was not a bar to a Crown Court having jurisdiction to determine the appeal.

[2017] EWHC 2101 (Admin)

It was appropriate to proceed with a claimant’s committal application in a defendant’s absence where the breaches were serious and the defendant had deliberately chosen not to attend court and left the jurisdiction. Contempt of court was proved to the criminal standard, and he was sentenced to one years’ imprisonment.

A sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment was imposed for numerous, deliberate breaches of a freezing injunction and a disclosure order including failing to deliver up a passport, and lies about ownership or interests in 30 bank accounts and eight properties.

[2017] EWHC 1860 (Ch)

A contemnor was committed to prison for 12 months for failing to comply with an order requiring her to disclose financial information in ongoing litigation. Although she had attempted to remedy her breach by producing information after the date for compliance, that information was false and misleading, and her deceitful behaviour showed a continuing disregard of the importance of court orders.

[2017] EWHC 1302 (Ch)

A juror who admitted that he had conducted internet research into the background of a defendant during a burglary trial, which caused the conviction to be quashed, received a four month prison sentence suspended for 12 months. Although an immediate custodial sentence was virtually inevitable for such a contempt of court, the delay in the instant case of almost two years would have made an immediate sentence unfair.

Whilst a Magistrates’ court might in fact have applied the correct burden and standard of proof when reaching its decision to convict a minor of tampering with a motor vehicle contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 s.25, it had nevertheless created the impression by its remarks in open court that it might not have applied the correct standard of proof and the decision therefore had to be set aside.

[2017] EWHC 1162 (Admin)

The court emphasised the importance of sentencing judges delivering their sentencing remarks in open court. Transparency in the working of the criminal justice system was integral to the maintenance of public confidence in that system.

[2017] EWCA Crim 618

A claimant who had fraudulently claimed that he had been a passenger on a bus involved in a road traffic accident and had pursued a fraudulent claim for personal injury damages, but had withdrawn the proceedings prior to trial and had admitted his contempt of court, was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment.

A judge was entitled to increase a sentence under the slip rule pursuant to the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 where the original sentence had been based on a factual error and where the Attorney General had subsequently indicated that he would refer the sentence as unduly lenient to the Court of Appeal, even though the judge had, on being told of the error, initially stated that he would not alter it. A sentence of eight years and six months’ imprisonment imposed following a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit robbery was not manifestly excessive.

An insurance company was not permitted to bring committal proceedings against two respondents for allegedly pursuing a fraudulent road traffic accident claim. Although the trial judge had found fraud to the balance of probabilities, the evidence had mainly been circumstantial and there was no strong prima facie evidence of fraud. Further, the insurance company had waited 18 months before bringing the proceedings.

The court acceded to an application under the Senior Courts Act 1981 s.28A to amend an appeal by way of case stated where the case stated contained reasons for the conviction which differed from the reasons given by the magistrates in open court, in a contemporaneous note and in an earlier draft of the case stated. It was at least possible that the different formulations of the case stated could lead to different outcomes.

A known figure in the world of online fitness advice could not rely on the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to restrain unauthorised use of her name and photographs on another person’s fitness website and on social media. It was a case of identity fraud and belonged in the Chancery Division.

A judge had been entitled to sentence an individual to 56-days’ imprisonment, suspended until further order, for breach of an interim injunction preventing gang-related violence. An order of imprisonment for contempt of court, suspended as long as the contemnor complied with another order of indefinite duration, was not unlawful, and in any event the instant suspension would end at the trial which was less than a month away.

The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 s.35(3) only placed a requirement on a coroner to make a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions where “the circumstances of the death being investigated” disclosed that an offence might have been committed. There was no requirement to report wrongdoing unrelated to the circumstances of death.

[2016] NIQB 94

A coroner continued anonymity orders granted in respect of two police officers following an inquest into the death of a suspected member of a proscribed organisation. Anonymity had been granted as it represented a necessary and proportionate response to the objectively verified risk to life, and the inquest result and findings had not reduced that risk or removed the officers’ entitlement to protection under ECHR art.2.

[2016] NIQB 95

Concurrent sentences of three months’ imprisonment, to run consecutively to substantive custodial sentences imposed for driving offences, were appropriate for each instance of contempt of court committed by an offender who had repeatedly personally insulted the sentencing judge and refused to apologise. Such outbursts impeded the administration of justice and maintenance of the rule of law.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1851

The Courts and Tribunals Service did not have a free-standing power as occupier of court buildings to exclude individuals from the building without reference to the judiciary.

[2016] EWHC 2792 (Admin)

A magistrates’ court had exercised its discretion reasonably in refusing to adjourn a trial, to exclude evidence, or to recuse itself, after an Achieving Best Evidence video had only been disclosed to the defendant on the day of the trial. The magistrates had taken steps to ensure that the defendant had time to consider the evidence, and they could be trusted to exclude from their deliberations any inadmissible material arising from the video.

The criminal division of the Court of Appeal would not, as a matter of settled practice, entertain appeals against orders for costs properly made in the Crown Court at the time of sentence if the sole basis for the proposed appeal was an alleged subsequent change for the worse in the defendant’s financial circumstances. The appropriate forum in which those matters should be addressed was the magistrates’ court.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1665

A sentence of 21 days’ imprisonment for contempt of court was appropriate where the appellant pleaded guilty to taking a photograph on a mobile telephone in the lobby of a Crown Court building. It was a photograph of four people making gestures of defiance and contempt with the court notice board behind them. As a frequent visitor to the court building, the appellant must have known that she was not allowed to take a photograph in the building.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1562

The Court of Appeal (Northern Ireland) set out the public policy grounds on which an application made under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 s.31 for the return of property lawfully seized by police could be refused.

[2016] NICA 36

The court imposed an 18-month custodial sentence for contempt of court on a Russian businessman who had failed to provide asset disclosure as required by a worldwide freezing injunction, and had refused to participate in the court proceedings.

Four individuals who had been complicit in submitting a fraudulent claim for personal injuries arising out of a road traffic accident and who had been found in contempt of court were sentenced to concurrent terms of six months’ imprisonment. The veracity of the claim turned on photographs which had been taken at the scene of the accident using an iphone. The court considered the metadata underlying such photographs and whether it could easily be tampered with.

The court considered, and made observations regarding, the powers of single judges when considering applications under the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 s.31 for leave to appeal against sentence. A single judge was not precluded from granting leave to appeal on limited grounds or against part of a sentence only.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1031

The court did not have jurisdiction to order an oral hearing to reconsider the refusal of an application for permission to seek judicial review of decision made in criminal proceedings where the claim had been recorded as being totally without merit.

[2016] EWHC 1760 (Admin)

An order granted under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 s.11 restricting the publication of words spoken by a judge in open court following an in camera hearing, explaining his reasons for making an order requiring a defendant’s character evidence to be given in private, was upheld because it would frustrate or undermine the purpose of the order made at the in camera hearing.

[2016] EWCA Crim 887

Where there were parallel criminal and civil proceedings regarding the same incidents, the first court should not anticipate or allow for a likely future sentence, but should ensure that the basis of its sentence was clear and that a transcript was made available. It was for the second court, which should be fully informed, to sentence in the light of the first so as to ensure that there was no double punishment for the same act.

[2016] EWCA Civ 608

The court ordered the Courts and Tribunals Service to rewrite notices displayed in jury rooms to clearly set out a jurors’ obligations and the penalties for non-compliance. Suspended sentences of imprisonment were imposed on a juror who had contravened court orders by disclosing to defendants what had happened during jury deliberations, and another who had researched a defendant on the internet during a trial.

The deliberate taking of photographs in court, in breach of notices prohibiting such conduct, was a contempt of court as well as an offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1925 s.41. A specific intent to interfere with the administration of justice was not required before such a contempt could be proven. It was sufficient that the act was deliberate and in breach of the criminal law or a court order of which the contemnor was aware.

[2016] EWHC 1241 (QB)

A sentence of six months’ imprisonment was appropriate following a guilty plea to perverting the course of justice. A young woman had provided a false statement for her boyfriend who had been arrested for driving offences despite being warned by police of the consequences of doing so. However, she was of previous good character, and the deception had lasted only a short time and had not had any ongoing effect on his eventual prosecution.

[2016] EWCA Crim 291

A sentence of four months’ imprisonment was appropriate in the case of an offender who had pleaded guilty to failing to answer bail and being at large for a day. The offender had a history of failing to surrender to custody, and the instant failure was a deliberate act of defiance in contumelious disobedience of a court order.

[2016] EWCA Crim 614

A Russian businessman was in contempt of court for breaching orders requiring him to deliver up his passports and remain within the jurisdiction, and for disposing of his assets in breach of freezing orders. He had also given false evidence to the court in relation to certain transactions. However, there was insufficient evidence that he had lied about transactions that had taken place before he left Russia where the financial information requested was detailed and complex and where he had no access to documentation which might have assisted.

[2016] EWHC 192 (Ch)

On an appeal under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 s.288AA, the Supreme Court upheld a decision of the High Court of Justiciary that the Lord Advocate’s failure to disclose material evidence to the defendant in a criminal trial did not infringe ECHR art.6. The High Court had applied the two-stage test in McInnes (Paul) v HM Advocate [2010] UKSC 7, 2010 S.C. (U.K.S.C.) 28, and the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction did not extend to determining whether it had applied it correctly.

[2015] UKSC 77

The Independent Police Complaint’s Commission had been entitled to re-open an investigation into an allegation that a police officer had tried to strangle an arrested man. The IPCC was not functio officio in circumstances where the allegations had not been resolved and concluded, and the IPCC’s functions in respect of them were far from over.

[2015] EWCA Civ 1248

A publisher was in contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 s.2(2) after a magazine article published during a phone hacking trial was found to have created a substantial risk that the course of justice in the trial would be seriously prejudiced or impeded.

[2015] EWHC 3322 (Admin)

A magistrates’ court had erred by dismissing a charge of criminal damage for failure to comply with the time limit in the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 s.127. The time limit did not apply to the offence as it was triable either way. Further, a charge could only be dismissed after hearing evidence, where the prosecution offered no evidence, was unable to proceed, or did not appear. Accordingly, a subsequent magistrates’ court had erred in refusing to allow the prosecution to proceed.

Acquittal by a jury on a charge of fraud arising from the giving of false evidence in a civil claim was not an absolute bar to permission being granted for the bringing of committal proceedings for contempt of court. However, permission was unlikely to be granted where there was no new evidence against the alleged contemnor.

[2015] EWHC 2982 (QB)

A judge was under no obligation when presiding over the trial of a wildlife campaigner for offences committed against a terrierman for the Flint and Denbigh Hunt to disclose the fact that he himself had had represented a terrierman for the Hunt seven years previously when acting as a solicitor. In the absence of an enquiry as to whether he had acted for someone connected to field sports, the judge was under no obligation to disclose such information, and accordingly there was no basis on which to expect him to recuse himself.

[2015] EWHC 2956 (Admin)

The Solicitor General was given permission to bring committal proceedings for contempt against two people who took photographs in court, without disturbing proceedings, on the day that their friend was being sentenced for murder and posted them on Facebook with comments congratulating him, referring to a gang, and abusing a judge.

A reporting restrictions order prohibiting the identification of a child who had been arrested with her parents and siblings in connection with terrorist offences had not been wrongfully made and would stand. There were concerns that the child, who was the subject of wardship proceedings, had been radicalised, and in such cases the balance between the competing interests under ECHR art.8 and art.10 favoured protecting the child, even if that afforded collateral protection to the parents.

[2015] EWHC 4159 (Fam)

When refusing a renewed application for permission to appeal against an extradition order, following refusal by the single judge, the court commented on the proper approach to renewal applications. Proper consideration of the single judge’s reasons for refusal was required, setting out briefly and concisely why it was said that those reasons were wrong, and proper grounds for renewal had to be advanced.

[2015] EWHC 2808 (Admin)

The right in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.133 to compensation for a miscarriage of justice was not applicable to every person whose conviction had been found unsafe on the basis of newly discovered facts outside the normal time limit for appeal. It was only where the newly discovered facts established that the claimant would not, or could not, have been lawfully prosecuted.

[2015] EWHC 2383 (Admin)

In discharging their core functions of investigating crime and obtaining evidence, the police did not owe a duty of care to potential witnesses in general. Further, the Merseyside police had not assumed responsibility for the safety of witnesses to a shooting incident. A negligence claim brought by the witnesses, relating to the disclosure of their address to the defendants by the CPS, could therefore not be sustained.

[2015] EWCA Civ 836

Judges had to give the most careful consideration to a case before permitting a second retrial. The test in R. v Bell (Phillip James) [2010] EWCA Crim 3, [2010] 1 Cr. App. R. 27 would usually be sufficient to identify where the interests of justice lay, but a wider consideration might sometimes be required. Where the case did not involve murder or violent crime, particularly strong justification would be needed to satisfy the test of extreme gravity.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1307

The Court of Appeal Criminal Division had power to re-open an appeal to correct an error that had led to the quashing of a sentence lawfully imposed in the Crown Court. It would be appropriate for the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee to formulate a rule similar to CPR r.52.17, the rule embodying the Civil Division’s equivalent power.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1277

The mere fact that the Privy Council was seized of a criminal case while hearing an appeal against conviction or sentence did not give it jurisdiction to order commutation of a lawfully passed death sentence on the ground that it would be unconstitutional for that sentence to be carried out. It was not morally unacceptable for the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to provide different avenues for appealing against unlawful sentences and for obtaining relief, on constitutional grounds, from the execution of lawfully imposed sentences.

[2015] UKPC 33

A juror who had, in contempt of court, searched online for details of the defendant during a criminal trial, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The sentence was suspended for 12 months because of the juror’s genuine remorse and personal mitigation.

The court emphasised the position set out in R. v Gray (Dean Andrew) [2014] EWCA Crim 2372, [2015] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 27 in respect of loss of time directions for the renewal of an unmeritorious appeal, namely that renewal on the advice of counsel would not necessarily prevent such an order being made.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1435

A retired judge, formerly the President of the Court of Appeal of Jamaica, who accepted an ad hoc appointment specifically to preside over a high profile criminal trial in the Turks and Caicos Islands had sufficient security of tenure to demonstrate judicial independence. Ad hoc appointments arguably strengthened judicial independence because there was no expectation of renewal or further appointment. In directing a trial by himself, alone, the judge had not erred in his interpretation of the Trial Without a Jury Ordinance 2010 (Turks and Caicos Islands) s.4, and had not undermined the criminal standard of proof.

[2015] UKPC 31