27th August 2014 appeared to be a usual day in Blackpool Magistrates’ Court. We don’t have the full Court list, but we imagine the usual diet of sex, drugs, violence and unpaid parking tickets.
Any casual observer would have been jolted out of their complacency when a Mr Wayne Bamford appeared in front of the lay justices.
This wasn’t a murder, it wasn’t a serious offence at all – possession of cannabis (hardly an offence any more in many people’s eyes). There was £200 worth; enough for a couple of weeks. The sort of offence that passes through the magistrates’ courts up and down the land day in, day out, without comment. And the sort of case that would normally lead to a fine.
It’s not completely clear, but we think that Mr Bamford pleaded guilty and the magistrates stated that they were thinking of imposing a curfew (a pretty high sentence for this, but there may be facts that we’re not aware of).
To say that Mr Bamford objected is somewhat of an understatement. His exact words were ““You must be joking. I can’t stay in with my mum. You don’t understand what it’s like living with her. Why can’t I just have a fine?“. Upon being asked to be quiet, he stated “I’m not having a curfew – no way” before throwing petrol on the fire by “repeatedly interrupted proceedings by calling members of the bench and the legal advisor obscene names.
Mr Bamford was removed to the cells, where he was left to cool his heels for the rest of the day. This is common – Court proceedings can be stressful, and people often let off steam. Sometimes, the best way of dealing with it is to remove the person from the situation and letting them calm down.
After a few hours in the cells, Mr Bamford was a bit more contrite, and apologised for his behaviour. This spared him from an immediate custodial sentence, but he was still dealt with for the contempt.
The Chair of the bench sentenced Mr Bamford to a 28 day curfew. I hope that he paused briefly before announcing this, and gave Mr Bamford a little wink but, if it did happen, then it was not recorded.
What is contempt?
We have an overview here, as well as some specific examples here (defendants snogging in the dock – not that serious) and here (attacking the Judge after he’s sentenced your brother – much more serious).
Generally speaking, people who get convicted of contempt get a short spell inside. This is because Courts feel that this sort of behaviour tends to undermine the court of justice. In this case, the Court took a sensible way forward by giving him a curfew order rather that prison. Yes it was serious, but it’s not that serious a challenge to the authority of the court.
Hopefully Mr Bamford and his mother take the 28 days of enforced evenings in (no early release from a curfew) to learn to tolerate each other better. Maybe a game of scrabble and a good mother-son chat.