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Entries in breach of the peace (2)

Thursday
Aug132015

Non-harassment order ruled not to affect child contact

A father convicted of threatening or abusive behaviour (breach of the peace)  in connection with a contact dispute has been successful in appealing against a related non-harassment order which would have prevented him making any contact with his three children.

In the appeal judgement, delivered by Lord Brodie, it was concluded that as the children in this family were not the victims for which the non-harassment order was made, the original Sheriff was wrong in making an order that would prevent contact with them. Lady Clark in her summing up said "at no point in these proceedings has the best interests of the children been properly examined" although this comment wasn't included in the published judgement.

This decision is significant because it makes it less likely that non-harassment orders will be made in such a way as to stop all contact of a parent with children.

Wednesday
Jul172013

Appeal court clarifies breach of the peace laws

A man found guilty of committing a breach of the peace after approaching his former partner at her parents’ home and allegedly “placing her in a state of fear and alarm” has won an appeal against his conviction.

The Criminal Appeal Court judgement states that the incident was “not sufficient to alarm ordinary people or to threaten serious disturbance in the community”.

The man had  arrived at the home of his wife's parents just as she and her mother had parked the car after returning from a shopping trip. He approached her, placed his hand on the window of the car and knocked a couple of times, and said in a normal tone of voice that he wanted to talk. The complainer's mother told him to go away and he said, 'I'll get back in the car'.

Delivering the opinion of the court, Lady Paton said: “Taking into account all the factors relied upon by the Crown, including the complaint of a serious earlier assault and its effect on the complainer, we have reached the view that what occurred on 22 November 2012 did not amount to a common law breach of the peace as defined by the authorities.

 “Had there been, for example, shouting, swearing, threatening words or behaviour, attempts to force open the car door or to get into the car in some other way, or simply a greater persistence in attempting to talk to the complainer, it would in our opinion be arguable that what was occurring would be likely to alarm ordinary people and to threaten serious disturbance to the community because inter alia they might be alarmed by the behaviour but, more importantly, would fear for the complainer's safety.“

But that is not what occurred in this case. There was an apparently normal attempt to speak to the complainer. When that attempt was rebuffed and the appellant was told to go, he did in fact walk away from the car in which the complainer was sitting, get into his own car, and drive off. The incident did not therefore escalate, as it could have done, into something which might well have constituted a breach of the peace.

FNF Scotland welcomes this clarification of the law, while re-iterating our advice to anyone involved in a family or contact dispute to avoid any situation in which their behaviour could be alleged to be threatening or alarming.