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LB of Islington v Williams & Another [2013] EWHC 2692 (Fam)

Application by a local authority for committal of a mother for contempt of court arising from the breach of a collection order in respect of her son. Contempt proved.

Neutral Citation Number: [2013] EWHC 2692 (Fam)
Case No: FD 13 P 00660


Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 12/04/2013






(1)  JACQUELINE  WILLIAMS First Respondent

(2)  EDDIE  RAMSEY Second Respondent

Transcription by
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MISS STANLEY (instructed by Legal Department, London Borough of Islington) appeared on behalf of the Claimant.
MR G DE BURGOS (instructed by Grazing Hill Law Partners,) appeared on behalf of the First Respondent.

1.  This is an application by the Local Authority, the London Borough of Islington, to commit the first respondent, Jacqueline Williams, to prison for contempt of court. 

2.  I am concerned in this case with a young teenager, X, who was born in 2000.  His father is Eddie Ramsay.  Jacqueline Williams is his mother.  On 15th October 2012, a final Care Order was made.  He was placed at the Z in Y.  It is quite clear to me that Jacqueline Williams objects strongly to the Care Order and to the placement.  She does not believe that it is in X's best interests and believes that it is actually counterproductive for him to be there. 

3.  On or about 15th March 2013, she gave him £110 for his birthday.  On 21st March X went missing from care.  On 25th March he was arrested by the police at V, London, having committed some sort of offence of vehicle taking.  He was detained in police custody overnight.  The following day he absconded from a vehicle taking him back to the residential unit.  He escaped from the car at a place somewhere near W.  He has not been seen since.

4.  On 27th March 2013, a recovery order was made.  That was not successful.  On 3rd April 2013, Holman J made a Collection Order.  The relevant paragraphs with which I am concerned are:

"2. If Jackie Williams and/or any other person served with this order is in a position to do so, she must deliver the child into the care of the Tipstaff.

3.  If the Respondent or any other person served with this order is not in a position to deliver the child into the care of the Tipstaff, he or she must each:

(a)   inform the Tipstaff of the whereabouts of the child if such are known to her, and

(b) also, in any event, inform the Tipstaff of all matters within her knowledge or understanding which might reasonably assist in locating the child."

5.  Various attempts were made to serve this order on the mother.  At one point, the Local Authority was informed that her home had been cleared out.  In any event, eventually, at around approximately 10.30 pm last night, a number of policemen attended at the property.  The net result of that was that she was arrested and brought before this court today.  The Local Authority's case is that she is in breach of paragraphs 2 and 3 of the order of Holman J, and in particular paragraph 3(a) and (b), as I have just outlined.

6.  The Local Authority brings this application.  The burden of proof is therefore upon it.  The standard of proof is the criminal standard of proof.  I have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt.  In other words, I have to be satisfied so that I am sure of the contempt. 

7.  This is a very serious and worrying case.  I have not heard from the Police Officers.  I accept that there is a challenge to the evidence that they give in witness statements which I have seen.  The evidence of PC Griffiths is to the effect that the mother became extremely abusive and started to shout. 

"She refused to open the gate that was in front of her door.  She said that she did not know where X was.  She continually refused to open the security gate.  She was very hostile and abusive towards the police.  She became abusive when asked about passports and refused to provide them.  She stated: 'I am not giving them to you.  I do not have any of them'.  I asked her: 'Where is X?'  She replied: 'I will not tell you.  I don't trust police.'  I said: 'If you know where X is, you need to tell me'.  Miss Williams refused to answer any questions about his whereabouts." 

I also have a shorter statement from PC Samuel Homer.  It is right that it does not give the same sort of detail that is in the statement of PC Griffiths.  It indicates that Miss Williams reluctantly opened the door; that she refused to co-operate with the police; that she refused to tell the police where X was; and that, when asked to provide them with his passport and her passport, she presented a passport in X's name which was out of date.  She went on say that she did not have a valid passport for X.

8.  Miss Williams has given detailed evidence before me.  Her evidence was to the effect that she did not know where X was as she had not seen him since he first went missing some three weeks ago.  He has not contacted her.  She has not contacted the Local Authority because she has a bad relationship with them.  She has not contacted the police.  She has not attempted to find X or to contact X because she does not know where to start, and therefore she is not in breach of paragraph 3 of the order of Holman J.

9.  I have listened very carefully to her evidence.  I reject it in its entirety.  I am satisfied to the criminal standard of proof that she does have knowledge of the whereabouts of X and that she has information that she has not given to this court which might reasonably assist in locating X.  I consider that, if what she said to me was true, she would be at her wits' end.  Her 13 year old son has gone missing in a dangerous capital city.  Yet she has taken no steps whatsoever to find him.  She has taken no steps to contact the authorities.  She said at one point: "I am not out there looking for him as I don't have a clue where he is".  I reject that evidence completely.  I am satisfied to the criminal standard of proof that she has attempted to avoid service of these orders, and that she has done so because she does not wish to co-operate and to assist in the finding of.  She later said in her evidence that she denies telling the police that she would not tell them where he was because she did not trust them.  She told me that she did not shout.  She said that at no point did she shout at the police.  She told me that she behaved thoroughly responsibly at all times.  I simply do not believe that evidence.  I do not believe it to the criminal standard of proof.  If she had come along and said to me that yes, she had been abusive because she did not like being disturbed by the police at 10.30pm, I might have believed her.  I do not accept what she says to me.

10.  Her daughter gave evidence.  I have no reason to doubt her 30 year old daughter's evidence.  Her daughter said that her mother had told her that the police kept coming to her address.  This mother knew very well that the police were trying to find her, and she deliberately kept out of their way.  The reason that she did so was because she has information about X's whereabouts.  I consider it to be, frankly, absurd for her to suggest that this 13 year old boy has gone missing for three weeks and has not, at any stage, attempted to contact her or given her any information.  It is equally absurd to suggest that she has not attempted to contact him or find out any information as to where he might be.  It may be significant that when he was arrested he was near V, which is not very far from where the mother lives.  It suggests that he has come into London where he has not been, I am told, for some two years.  I consider it inconceivable that he would not contact his mother.  I consider it inconceivable that his mother does not know where he is.  I therefore find to the criminal standard of proof that the contempt of paragraph 3(a) and (b) is proved.