CONTEMPT/INJUNCTIONS: Nicholls v Nicholls [2008] EWCA Civ 121

30 JAN 2008

(Court of Appeal; Wilson LJ and Black J; 30 January 2008)

Following the parents separation the mother, who was an alcoholic, caused problems for the father and the four children. The court made a non-molestation order, forbidding the mother from going within 100 metres of the former matrimonial home and from intimidating, harassing or pestering the father or any of the children. The mother immediately breached the order, and was sentenced to 3 weeks' immediate imprisonment. On release from prison the mother breached the injunction again, and was given a 28-day custodial sentence, suspended. Less than 2 weeks later the mother breached the injunction a further three times over the course of a week. Having returned to court for sentencing under the influence of alcohol, and with an unhelpful report from her probation officer, she was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. She appealed on the basis that the sentence was excessive.

The judge had had little option but to impose a custodial sentence; he had had to bear in mind that there had been repeated breaches and earlier custodial terms, both actual and suspended, and that the root cause, the mother's alcohol addiction, had not been addressed. The mother's progress in prison could form part of an application to the trial judge to purge the contempt.

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