Ezeugo v Hendon Magistrates Court
Court: Wood Green Crown Court
Judge: HHJ May QC
Date of judgment: 5 Nov 2010
Summary: Contempt - Criminal contempt - s.12 (1) Contempt of Court Act 1981 - Wilfully interrupting court proceedings - Appeal conviction and sentence
Christina Michalos QC (Respondent)
Instructing Solicitors: Treasury Solicitor
The Appellant had appeared at Hendon Magistrates’ Court. He had contended that the Chairman of the Bench was biased against him and wanted his case transferred. It was alleged that he then (1) refused to give his name and address, shouted at the bench repeatedly and aggressively, despite being warned about the possibility of contempt, and continued to do until security were called; (2) interrupted another case; (3) in the absence of the bench, shouted at and was aggressive towards the Legal Advisor to the Court; (4) shouted at and argued with the usher in Court; and (5) refused to leave the well of the Court. Security was called and he was removed to the cells. He was released in the afternoon and was not represented but did not purge his contempt.
On 1st February 2010, he was convicted of an offence contrary to s.12(1)(b) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 namely wilfully interrupting Court proceedings and was sentenced to 7 days imprisonment. He appealed against conviction and sentence. Appeal is by way of rehearing.
(1) Whether the conviction should be set aside, including consideration of the meaning of “wilful” and whether the conduct in issue met the statutory test;
(2) If not, whether the sentence was excessive.
Dismissing the appeal against conviction but allowing the appeal against sentence in part :
(1) The incident involving shouting at the bench met the required standard but that the other matters fell short of conduct required. The interruption of the earlier case was held to be disruptive and bordering on contempt. It was held that despite being warned, the conduct amounted to wilful disruption of court proceedings.
(2) Given the background including the fact that the underlying charges upon which the Appellant appeared on that day were later withdrawn, the appropriate sentence was the amount of time spent in the cells on the day of the interruption.
A person “wilfully” interrupts the proceedings of the court if he commits the acts causing the interruption deliberately with the intention that they should interrupt the proceedings of the Court or if, knowing that there is a risk that his acts will interrupt the proceedings, he nevertheless goes on deliberately to do those acts: Bodden v Metropolitan Police Commissioner  2 WLR 76.