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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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CONTEMPT OF COURT ACT: Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Elizabeth Watson [2011] EWHC 2498 (Fam)
Date:2 NOV 2011

(Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall P, 6 October 2011)

Further to the earlier case of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Watson [2011] EWHC B15 (Fam) where the defendant was found to be in contempt of court and sentenced to 9 months in prison, and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council v Elizabeth Watson [2011] EWHC 2376 (Fam) in which her application to purge her contempt was granted and her sentence suspended for 2 years, the President's attention was drawn to the Court of Appeal decision of Harris v Harris [2002] 1 FLR 248.

It was held in that case that when contempt is purged a judge does not have power to suspend the earlier sentence. The case could not be distinguished. Accordingly, Ms Watson's immediate and unconditional release should have been ordered and therefore was now so ordered. However, this would not prevent a future court assessing sentence in the event of further breach to take into account the unserved sentence and use that as a starting point.