Re Ramet: Contemnor not to be punished twice for the same conduct

A quick note about Ramet, Re application for the committal to prison [2014] EWHC 56 (Fam), handed down by the President today.

The case concerned a long-running contact dispute. A hearing took place at the Southend County Court on the 10th of October last. As the judge was handing down her judgment the father attacked the mother, and then also the court clerk who came to her aid. He subsequently pleaded guilty to offences of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (the attack on the mother) and common assault (the attack on the court clerk), and was sentenced to 20 months' imprisonment for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm and four months concurrent for the common assault.

The President had to deal with the issue of sentencing the father for contempt (the father having admitted the two complaints in the summons, i.e. the attacks on the mother and court clerk). He found that the conduct complained of in the contempt summons was the same conduct as had been the subject of the criminal proceedings. The father could not be punished twice for the same conduct, and therefore the President did not impose any additional sentence.

The President's judgment is also notable for a couple of other things:

Firstly, he expressed his exasperation at the lack of progress in improving the way that children disputes are dealt with since his judgment in Re D (Intractable Contact Dispute: Publicity) [2004] EWHC 727 (Fam):
"How much has changed? A coruscating judgment by McFarlane LJ in September last year, Re A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104, would suggest to the pessimist the answer "not much" and even to the optimist "not enough". Something must be done. A recent report by a Working Group chaired by Cobb J, Report to the President of the Family Division of the Private Law Working Group, is at present the subject of consultation and urgent consideration. With its proposal for a Child Arrangements Programme to replace the current Private Law Programme, it maps out a radically different approach. I am determined to implement the necessary reforms as soon as possible this year."
Secondly, he expressed his concerns about the adequacy of the statutory penalties available under the County Courts Act 1984 and he invited the Family Procedure Rules Committee "to consider whether there is some way in which, compatibly with the provisions of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, District Judges, Circuit Judges and Recorders can be given powers more extensive than those currently available to them in these cases."