Slade v Slade: CA 17 Jul 2009

Contempt sentence to reflect existing punishment

The wife appealed against a sentence of imprisonment imposed for a second contempt of court. She said that the behaviour complained of had already been dealt with in criminal proceedings.
Held: The sentence was reduced. The second court should be fully informed of the factors and circumstances reflected in the first sentence. It is the conduct which is not twice punishable: ‘even if a civil judge were to regard the punishment given by the criminal court for certain conduct as too lenient, it would be improper for him to use his power of committal in respect of that self-same conduct in order to top up the punishment to what he regards as a proper level. What he must do is to sentence only for such conduct as was not the subject of the criminal proceedings.’
It would be good practice for the court which imposes a sentence of imprisonment for contempt always expressly to ask itself in judgment whether the sentence might properly be suspended.
Wall LJ discussed the court’s role on an appeal against sentence for contempt of court: ‘The result, I think, is that this court is unlikely to interfere unless it is of the view that the sentence passed is manifestly disproportionate or excessive. The judge is local, on the ground, and has the ‘feel’ of the case. Any tinkering by this court is to be avoided.’

Lord Justice Ward, Lord Justice Wall and Lord Justice Wilson
[2009] EWCA Civ 748, Times 20-Aug-2009, [2010] 1 FCR 227, [2009] Fam Law 925, [2010] 1 WLR 1262, [2010] CP Rep 3, [2010] 1 FLR 160
Contempt of Court Act 1981 14, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 3
England and Wales
CitedSmith v Smith CA 1991
A husband committed two breaches of a non-molestation order; breaking the terms of a suspended sentence of committal. The breaches were extremely serious: the first was setting fire to his wife’s house and the second was assaulting her so severely . .
CitedHale v Tanner CA 22-Aug-2000
When attaching a power of arrest on a non-molestation order the court should consider attaching it only to that element which restricts violence or proximity rather than to any part relating to harassment. When considering sentence for a breach, the . .
Applied with commentsLomas v Parle CA 18-Dec-2003
The respondent had been sentenced to two months imprisonment for breaches of orders under the Act. The wife appealed, seeking to increase the sentence. The maximum sentence was two years.
Held: The court had to consider such cases in the light . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosections v Tweddell QBD 2001
In the county court the husband had been committed to prison for three months for assaulting his wife in breach of an injunction. He was than charged in the magistrates’ court in respect of the same assault.
Held: The Court allowed the . .
CitedBrewer v Brewer CA 1989
Purchas LJ considered an appeal against sentence in contempt of court, where the behaviour would in any event be criminal and said that: ‘in most cases where there is not a previous record of criminal violence, the court would normally find it . .
CitedHead v Orrow CA 16-Dec-2004
A court asked to sentence for contempt of court is not sentencing for the criminal equivalent of what the contemnor has done, and ‘Great care must be taken, if there are concurrent criminal or civil proceedings, to ensure that sentences in two or . .
CitedHammerton v Hammerton CA 12-Apr-2007
Appeal against sentence of two months imprisonment for contempt of court. The court emphasised the need to ensure a fair process in such cases. The court was critical of the judge who sentenced a contemnor without hearing mitigation and without . .

Cited by:
CitedErhire v E O-I (by his next friend) CA 24-Mar-2011
The mother appealed against a sentence of eight months imprisonment imposed for contempt of court in having broken an order intended to protect the child against being removed to Nigeria with a view to forcing him into a marriage. On complaint of a . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court, Family

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.349051