Injunctions were served on LB and MK on 5 May 2023, to prevent them from contacting X, a vulnerable person who they had financially, physically, emotionally and sexually exploited.
In May 2023, LB breached the injunction nine times and MK had done so six times.
Unusually, the court heard the proceedings in private. The potential for public observers caused X severe anxiety and distress. Further, the Official Solicitor was concerned that public hearings would increase the risk of LB or MK’s associates identifying, and harming, X. The anxiety caused X to have suicidal ruminations.
Her Honour Judge Tucker, sitting as a High Court Judge, handed down two written judgements in this matter. On 19 July 2023, she determined that the contempt proceedings should be held in private.
In the judgement handed down on 19 July 2023, HHJ Tucker balanced the competing rights under the European Convention on Human Rights:
The right to a fair trial for all parties and open justice under Article 6,
X’s right to privacy and personal integrity under Article 8,
X’s right to equal enjoyment of their ECHR rights without discrimination under Article 14, and
Freedom of expression and freedom of the press under Article 10.
HHJ Tucker held that she was satisfied it was necessary to sit in private to protect the interests of X and to pursue the proper administration of justice in accordance with rule 21.8 of the Court of Protection Rules 2017. There was no less restrictive way to prevent harm to X and it would be undesirable for these proceedings, which were aimed at preventing harm to X, to cause X harm. In accordance with COP rule 21.8(11), a public judgment would also be given at the end of the hearing, explaining the decision and why it was made.
The judgement handed down on 15 September 2023 sets out the basis for finding the contempt proven and dealt with sentencing. HHJ Tucker held that for both LB and MK culpability was significant, and the degree of harm was high. She passed five-month custodial sentences. As there had been no proven breaches of the injunction after May 2023, the sentences were suspended on the condition that there were no further breaches.
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