What was the judgment when Lancashire Constabulary requested an anti-social behaviour order against Mr Ponting and why were £30,000 costs awarded?

What was the judgment when Lancashire Constabulary requested an anti-social behaviour order against Mr Ponting and why were £30,000 costs awarded?

What was the judgment when Lancashire Constabulary requested an anti-social behaviour order against Mr Ponting and why were £30,000 costs awarded?

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX (the venue for First-Tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0033)

What was the judgment when Lancashire Constabulary requested an anti-social behaviour order against Mr Ponting and why were £30,000 costs awarded?
Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX which was the venue for the hearingLiverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX which was the venue for the hearing
Continues from What happened during day 2 of a trial which involved a Lancashire Constabulary request for an anti-social behaviour order against Mr Ponting?

Unfortunately there is no report on day 3 of the trial (held on Wednesday 11th March 2020). The hearing originally scheduled for day 4 (Thursday 12th March 2020) was vacated to allow time for HHJ Knifton QC to write his judgment. So day 4 of the trial in Court Room 26 at Liverpool County Court, Liverpool was held scheduled to start at 2.00 pm on Friday 13th March 2020 for those present to hear the judgement of HHJ Knifton QC in case F70LV339 (Chief Constable of Lancashire Police v Ponting).

After people had sat down, HHJ Knifton QC poured water into his glass and arranged his papers.

HHJ Knifton QC started by referring to the invention of the internet and world wide web as one of the technological achievements of the twentieth century which had revolutionised communication with friends and family around the world.

However it was also a platform for those who wished to spread malicious information. Whereas previously there had been conversations in a pub, the use of a website and social media potentially had an audience in the thousands. The term “troll” had been used to describe a person who used inflammatory language and comments to provoke others or to cause upset and distress. HHJ Knifton QC then commented on the effects of trolling.

Mr Paul Ponting ran a computer business in Ormskirk. In May 2013 he dismissed an employee called Paul Turner. There was a hate campaign to cause distress to the Defendant and his family, which was reported to the police and resulted in a harassment notice. In the ensuing months that followed there were allegations and counter allegations made by Paul Turner and Paul Ponting. This culminated in a post calling the Defendant Paul Ponting a **********.

HHJ Knifton QC accepted without hesitation the distress this caused the Defendant and his family. It affected his mental health, Mrs Ponting was tearful in evidence because of the strain of supporting her husband in excess of five years. After making this allegation the he threatened suicide on more than one occasion.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) can be reached on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight).
Samaritans can reached on 116 123 (24 hours a day) or by email to jo@samaritans.org.

A psychiatric report was detailed at pages 654-697 of the trial bundle.

The Defendant had always considered that with regards to the police response he believed that Mr Turner should have been arrested, but the reason he wasn’t the Defendant believed was because Paul Turner was a police informant.

The Defendant made a series of complaints to Lancashire Police, which on each occasion was investigated by the Professional Standards Department of Lancashire Police. It was not in dispute that between 2013 to 2019, 51 complaints were made containing 81 allegations, an average of one a month. Only six resulted in management action such as informal advice to the officer concerned. The vast majority were dismissed, none resulted in any disciplinary action.

On the 18th June 2014 police officers attended at the Defendant’s home to update the Defendant regarding the allegations he had made against Mr Turner. Events became heated which culminated in him being arrested. The Defendant alleged assault and subsequently that ***************************. The Defendant was acquitted at Chorley Magistrates’ Court in November 2014 regarding the alleged offences.

Following this there was a civil action which is set out on pages 620-629 which was settled without admission of liability in October 2018, with the payment sum of £35,000 by the Claimant to the Defendant together with legal costs and a letter of apology.

A subsequent application for a private prosecution requested against Mr Turner that alleged perjury when giving evidence during a magistrates’ court hearing in 2014 was dismissed in 2018 by District Judge McGarva for reasons of delay and improper motive which was in the trial bundle.

As explained at paragraphs 53 to 55, the Defendant’s experiences of Lancashire Police led to an interest in police misconduct, more generally the Defendant joined social media groups with a similar interest and came into contact with George Vella, Neil Wilkes and Mr Hogan. The Defendant had since fallen into dispute with individuals and there had been allegations and counter allegations of harassment which had been subject to investigation by Lancashire and West Midlands Police.

Mr Hogan was convicted of malicious communication for stating on a website that Paul Ponting was a *********. The Defendant set up his own website – UK corrupt police website as a vehicle to ventilate his feelings. In the course of evidence were numerous articles on that website.

As a result of what was perceived to be a drain on police resources, Lancashire Police instituted a contact policy in January 2017 with a revised update in April 2019. Although not in dispute, the reduced number of complaints made by the Complainant to Lancashire Police caused significant harassment, alarm and distress to officers and staff who dealt with them. This background to events gave rise to the proceedings that occurred.

An application [to Liverpool County Court] had been made by the Chief Constable of Lancashire Police in a case brought against the Defendant regarding harassment, alarm and distress and by that it meant the following:-

i) that the Defendant made or threatened to make excessive largely unfounded complaints,

ii) the confrontational, aggressive and abusive attitude meant many were reluctant to engage with him and

iii) the use of the internet, especially the UK Corrupt Police website which had offensive articles including photos of officers who were often accused of serious misconduct which caused immense distress to officers and their families.

This was opposed by the Defendant who in essence his case was that the articles were honest, factual and hard-hitting and that the injunction was an attempt to prevent the Defendant from exercising his freedom of speech. The application was issued on the 18th September initially without notice, Deputy District Judge Fitzgerald granted an interim injunction but refused to attach a power of arrest.

In the case of Moat Housing, [2005] EWCA Civ 287, granting a without notice application was exceptional and to be used for example when there was risk of significant harm, therefore HHJ Knifton QC was somewhat surprised that the Deputy District Judge saw fit to make the order without notice on that basis, however that was irrelevant.

An on notice application was made to Miss Recorder Williams QC who extended the injunction and she directed the matter was listed for a final hearing on the 11th and 12th December. HHJ Knifton QC apologised and stated it was the 28th September 2019 on the 10th December 2019. HHJ Gregory adjourned this due to the unavailability of parties, thus it came before HHJ Knifton QC on the 9th March listed for four days.

HHJ Knifton QC was grateful to both Mr Banner (Counsel for the Claimant) and Mr Gow (Counsel for the Defendant) during the course of the case.

HHJ Knifton QC had heard evidence over the course of three days, nine police officers for the Claimant, as well as the Defendant and his wife on his behalf. Reference had been made to a large number of documents around nine hundred pages with additional documents disclosed during the course of evidence.

In view of the obvious importance, it was delayed for a further day to review the evidence and carefully consider the contributions of both parties. It was impossible for HHJ Knifton QC to determine all the disputed factual issues, indeed it would be inappropriate for him to do so as some had already been the subject of criminal proceedings. For the Defendant all criminal proceedings had ended either in acquittal at trial or on appeal. The other case resulted in civil proceedings which there had already been made reference to which had ended in a compromise without admission of liability. It was not HHJ Knifton QC’s function to determine the facts in those proceedings. Although the law precluded behaviour prior to September, HHJ Knifton QC was entitled to take it into account in the overall evaluation of the facts.

HHJ Knifton QC referred to Mr Justice Holroyde in the Birmingham City Council case [2016] EWHC 3119 (QB) and gave a long summary starting with that the task as to whether the grounds for the injunction sought was with the Claimant who had the burden of proof. The standard was on the balance of probabilities, that findings could be made on witnesses who had given evidence orally before him which were therefore tested in cross examination, although he was also entitled to refer to statements of others but as far as matters were disputed to give such such evidence little or any weight.

Turning to the law and section 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the court may grant an injunction against those aged ten or over if two conditions are met.

The first is satisfied if on the balance of probabilities the Defendant “has engaged or threatened to engage in antisocial behaviour”. Subsection 3 is if it is considered “just and convenient for the purpose of preventing anti-social behaviour”. Subsection 4 stated that for the purpose of preventing from engaging in antisocial behaviour the injunction can:-

“(a) prohibit the respondent from doing anything described in the injunction;
(b) require the respondent to do anything described in the injunction.”

Section 2(1)(a) defines antisocial behaviour as “conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person”. Under section 4 a power of arrest may be attached if it is thought that “the anti-social behaviour in which the respondent has engaged or threatens to engage consists of or includes the use or threatened use of violence against other persons, or significant risk of harm to other persons from the respondent.”

The issues raised fundamental rights with regards to the freedoms in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act 1998 meant that legislation had to be read to give effect to the Convention rights as far as this is possible, see section 3 unless compelled by statute, see section 6. The Convention rights engaged were the right to respect for private and family life (article 8) and freedom of expression (article 10).

Both were qualified and could be interfered with by measures prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and for one or more legitimate aims including for the protection of the reputation and rights of others (see article 10(2)) and this right therefore carried with it duties and responsibilities.

The interface with the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 had been considered extensively by Mr Justice Warby in [2019] EWHC 3217 (QB) which concerned protests about LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] issues at a school in Birmingham. HHJ Knifton QC fully adopted its conclusions and the applicable law which stated as follows at paragraph 32:-

“In my judgment, there is no reason to doubt that in passing this legislation Parliament intended to confer power to seek and to grant injunctions to prohibit anti-social utterances and assemblies of all kinds, in any case where it is shown that this is necessary and proportionate in pursuit of one of the legitimate aims identified in Articles 10(2) and 11(2). The safeguards for the human rights of protestors lie in the Court’s statutory duty under s 6 of the HRA, and in the procedures of the Court. The Court can be relied on, with or without the assistance of those representing the defendants to claims for injunctions of this kind, to keep in mind the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It can be trusted to avoid unwarranted interferences with these (and other) fundamental rights by insisting on compliance with the well-established principles, that any interference must correspond to a pressing social need, its necessity must be established by clear and compelling evidence, and it must not go further than is necessary.”

HHJ Knifton QC stated that in paragraphs 102-104 Mr Justice Warby said this,

“The jurisprudence shows that Article 10 protects speech which causes irritation or annoyance, and information or ideas that ‘offend, shock or disturb’ can fall within its scope: see, eg, Sánchez v Spain (2012) 54 EHRR 24 [53], Couderc v France [2016] EMLR 19 [88]. Mr Diamond places particular reliance on the domestic authority of Livingstone v the Adjudication Panel for England [2006] EWHC 2533 (Admin) [2006] HRLR 45 (Collins J) [35], where the Judge emphasised that freedom of speech does extend to abuse, including offensive and anti-Semitic remarks made by the then Mayor of London to a journalist.” … “But the rights engaged in this case have outer limits.” … “the rights guaranteed by Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 are all qualified” and interference may be legitimate taking into consideration that it had to be in accordance with or prescribed by law, being necessary in a democratic society and one of the linked legitimate aims was public safety or the rights and freedoms of others.

Generally this should be narrowly construed.

Section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998 applied whenever as here relief if granted would affect the Convention right to freedom of expression. The Court had to have regard to the Convention right to freedom of expression. Paragraph 104 said this:

“that s 12(4) does not place freedom of expression on a pedestal, affording it presumptive priority over the Convention right to respect for private life; one cannot have particular regard to freedom of expression without also having particular regard to the right to privacy: Douglas v Hello! Ltd [2001] QB 967, 1003, 1005 (Sedley LJ). The Convention rights under Articles 8 and 10 are of equal inherent value; a conflict between them is not to be resolved by reference to rival generalities, but by focusing intensely on the facts, identifying and weighing up the comparative importance of specific rights being claimed in the individual case, with the ultimate outcome determined by considerations of proportionality.”

and in paragraph 113 Mr Justice Warby stated,

“In general terms, I can accept Mr de Mello’s submission that the 2014 Act creates a ‘high hurdle’. The court should not be too ready to grant injunctions prohibiting activities which citizens would ordinarily be free to undertake in a public place, or restricting the way they express themselves in such places. Injunctions under the 2014 Act should not be lightly granted, and their terms should be carefully framed to ensure that they do not involve unnecessary or excessive interference with the rights of others.” and “But I reject the submission that the Court is powerless to grant, or should always refrain from granting, an order protecting fellow citizens from alarm or distress, or other consequences of harassment or anti-social behaviour, falling short of that which would justify prosecution.”

Turning to the application of the principles, the test was did the Defendant threaten to or engage in antisocial behaviour (conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person) and has this been satisfied on the balance of probabilities? The following examples are based on the evidence heard.

Detective Constable (now Acting Sergeant) Harrison had received a commendation and awards. In 2012 Detective Constable Harrison received the Chief Constable’s award for outstanding bravery as Detective Constable Harrison had been stabbed as Detective Constable Harrison had intervened to protect others. Detective Constable Harrison had not been involved in the Defendant’s arrest but was part of the investigation team into the arrest.

During the course of an interview the CCTV used by the pub opposite the home of the Defendant had been suggested as confirming the Defendant’s version of events. The Defendant alleged that delays to obtaining that footage were detrimental. HHJ Knifton QC rejected that allegation as he was satisfied that Detective Constable Harrison had made several attempts to contact the landlord and that the way it was dealt with was beyond Detective Harrison’s control.

When finally the CCTV was requested it was no longer available as it had been overwritten, nevertheless there was a statement from the landlord about the footage. House to house inquiries had been made for any private CCTV. The absence of the CCTV did not ultimately affect acquittal at trial nor a substantial settlement for the civil claim.

The arrest in 2014 and allegation that the Defendant harassed Paul Turner was told by the Defendant to a psychiatrist in 2017 as although he disputed the reason and grounds that the Defendant had been treated fairly well by police (see the doctor’s report) and Defendant’s witness statement. The Defendant had no criticism of Detective Constable Harrison on that occasion.

In 2016 there was a formal complaint of Detective Constable Harrison’s handling of the Paul Turner matter. She was initially unconcerned about the complaint because the Defendant had no cause to be upset. She was shocked, distressed and upset to discover in 2016 the article on the UK Corrupt Police Website at page 408b to d of the trial bundle.

HHJ Knifton QC asked those present to excuse him for a moment as a page number in the electronic bundle didn’t correspond with the page number in the trial bundle itself.

That article dated 20th May 2016 was headed “DC Harrison (nee Johnson) of Skelmersdale CID Perverts The Course of Justice”. HHJ Knifton QC then summarised parts of the article which alleged that a “female police officer” of Skelmersdale had refused to collect significant evidence that would have proven 100% that a victim of police brutality was maliciously and vexatiously treated. At the foot of the article was a link to sign a petition calling for a criminal investigation into DC Harrison’s actions – a number of individuals had viewed and signed the petition.

DC Harrison was concerned with the invitation to sign a petition and the numbers that had done so. In a second post dated 2nd June 2017 at pages 406-408 headed “DC 1092 Harrison (nee Johnson) LIES about magistrates comments” in the text of the article it alleged she had fabricated evidence to enter on the police computer about what magistrates had said and stated that she intentionally added this. The Defendant had tried to justify this article.

DC Harrison had since changed her surname but the article contained both her surname and maiden name. She had concerns about her safety following prison intelligence that the prisoner who had been involved in the knife attack had been trying to find out the police station at which she was posted. She felt that the articles provided that information.

She was described as a “strong, independent woman”. However this paranoia had affected her health and well-being, her concerns had been heightened by unsubstantiated claims by colleagues of the noting of the registration numbers of police officers’ cars. HHJ Knifton QC accepted her oral evidence that she was anxious, worried and very stressed as her reputation had been tarnished. She had had time off work for stress which was attributed to the Defendant’s conduct.

HHJ Knifton QC rejected the assertion that it was a hard-hitting news article, it was an outrageous slur on the character and integrity of a police officer and the use of her name and maiden name in an unjustified way was a breach of her article 8 right to a private and family life.

The second 999 call from 23rd May 2017 was an audio recording played in evidence. To set it in its proper context on the night of the 22nd May 2017 at around 10.30 pm a large bomb was set off in Manchester which had resulted in 22 deaths and many injuries. Emergency services had been deployed in significant numbers and the terror level had been raised to critical. Troops had been deployed alongside armed police and it was a demanding time. Emergency services officers from Lancashire were deployed to assist Greater Manchester and one of the fatalities was from within the West Lancashire police area.

That was the background to the 999 call to report a disgusting website that had referred the Defendant as a “**********” a copy of it was at pages 705-706 of the trial bundle.

The website article headed “Paul Ponting possibly a **********” (breaking news) stated that it was a known fact that he was accused of being a **********. Later it stated Anna Ponting defended Paul Ponting. It also stated beneath that he had been *******************************************. It had been posted on the 19th May 2017 four days prior to the 999 call that was made. HHJ Knifton QC also noted in the witness statement that it was claimed that Paul Turner in November and December on numerous websites worldwide had stated that the Defendant was a ******************** and had also labelled him as a ********** on dozens of websites in October. There had been dozens of posts and the Defendant’s home and work telephone numbers were published in the articles. HHJ Knifton QC accepted the assertion that the articles were grossly offensive and led to the convictions of Hogan and Abercrombie.

However this was nothing new, there was no evidence that the Defendant had ever suffered physical attacks as a result of such posts, therefore there was no emergency. Yet the Defendant chose to call 999. On the telephone call, once told of the nature of the call, he was advised to ring back on 101, but the Defendant protested stating that a crime was in progress. Again he was advised to call on a different line. The Defendant protested stating that he wasn’t being listened to and it was pointed out that 999 was for life or death emergencies and how busy they were. The Defendant stated that he didn’t give a flying shit and would make a formal complaint if the call was terminated.

Although the operator would have been justified to terminate the call, the operator remained calm and measured and over several minutes took details from him. The Defendant sought to justify the 999 call in a witness statement on the basis that there was a crime in progress, but in oral evidence conceded that the call was probably a bit offensive. HHJ Knifton QC rejected an attempt by the Defendant at justification. The Defendant in prioritising his demands above others was wholly selfish. His conduct was bullying, he was shouting and threatened to complain.

Evidence had not been heard from the operator but HHJ Knifton QC inferred and found that the Defendant’s actions would have caused harassment, alarm and distress.

Thirdly, the evidence of Constable Briggs who had had little involvement prior to September 2017 but was aware of the complaints and website. Constable Briggs had recently returned to uniform to take over the investigation into allegations of harassment made by Paul Turner. Constable Briggs was reluctant as the officer previous to her had refused to continue with it and there had also been significant delays in allocating the matter to her. Constable Briggs felt bullied by her superiors to take on the case. There had been several attempts at contact by phone to arrange a voluntary interview with Defendant and Defendant’s solicitor which passed without incident.

The Defendant was subsequently served with a summons which as pointed out was outside a six month time limit for a summary only matter. Constable Briggs had had a conversation over the phone in September 2017 when aggressive words had been used by the Defendant towards Constable Briggs. During that phone call the Defendant stated that he knew who Constable Briggs was and telling her not to think her police cronies would protect her as the Defendant was coming for Constable Briggs next.

Constable Briggs took this as a threat made to her safety. It was reported to colleagues, superiors and family. Details about Constable Briggs were deleted from social media accounts. Constable Briggs told HHJ Knifton QC that Constable Briggs had been alarmed and upset and reference was made to the article posted on the 27th February 2018 at page 424-426 of the trial bundle headlined “PC 4118 Kerry Briggs of Lancashire Police harasses an arson victim”. HHJ Knifton QC then detailed the allegations made about Constable Briggs in the article as well as a further article headlined “Lancashire Police cover-up harassment by PC Briggs”.

HHJ Knifton QC stated that Constable Briggs had told him she was deeply upset and offended by the malicious attack on her character and was unable to deal with the Defendant again. The summons was out of time, but this had been an attempt to frighten and harass her with the allegation of protecting a police informant. The Defendant denied making a threat other than prosecution. It was also alleged by the Defendant that Constable Briggs had harassed his wife although in HHJ Knifton QC’s opinion there was no evidence of this. Mrs Ponting was simply asked by Constable Briggs as a motorist to move a car that was blocking traffic outside a school.

During the course of the hearing a contemporaneous note at page 417a had been disclosed to HHJ Knifton QC. It was accepted that the note suggested the Defendant was argumentative but no threat other than a private prosecution had been made personally against Constable Briggs. It was accepted that this was more accurate than a witness statement made two years later.

It may have been interpreted as more sinister later but the Defendant did not threaten with violence. HHJ Knifton QC accepted the Defendant’s annoyance at the summons being served out of time. However the website posts were grossly unfair and inaccurate whether or not Paul Turner was an informant but the content of the posts and unjustified threat of a private prosecution caused alarm and distress.

HHJ Knifton QC found Inspector Jolly to be an impressive witness who was calm and measured. Inspector Jolly was a Neighbourhood Inspector. In early May 2017 Inspector Jolly had quickly become aware of trepidation when his colleagues dealt with the Defendant with a clear and evident effect on staff whenever the Defendant reported. A few weeks later Inspector Jolly became the local coordinator for any allegations reported against or by the Defendant. Inspector Jolly had never met the Defendant but did have occasion to contact the Defendant by email and phone.

The Defendant was most concerned with abusive internet or social media posts with often similar allegations involving Turner, Vella, Wilkes or Hogan. The investigations were complex. Reams of screenshots of sometimes closed Facebook groups with often no realistic prospect of prosecution. HHJ Knifton QC accepted that the comments were distasteful and upsetting to the victim and HHJ Knifton QC fully understood it had been frustrating on numerous occasions as Inspector Jolly explained the difficulties. In a closed group it was not an offence if the victim had asked people to send it to the victim. When the evidential criteria had been met, it was progressed to the best of Inspector Jolly’s ability. Suspects were interviewed or charged according to CPS guidelines an example referred to had been the referral of Wilkes to West Midlands Police which had resulted in an arrest.

Inspector Jolly was a calm officer, fair and even-handed to all parties demonstrated by the following examples and occasions. In October 2019 Inspector Jolly was sent a DVD by Wilkes suggesting a child had been groomed by the Defendant. Inspector Jolly immediately suspected it was false and telephoned the Defendant with his views in that regard. The Defendant and others were advised to avoid looking for posts and to enhance their security settings. This was sensible and even-handed advice. Inspector Jolly gave careful consideration as to whether an offensive post by Vella in a closed Facebook group on page 729 could amount to an offence and was concerned that the Defendant was potentially a vulnerable victim.

It was during the course of a telephone call in June 2017 between Inspector Jolly and the Defendant that the Defendant became verbally aggressive, abusive and threatened to plaster information about Inspector Jolly all over the internet and YouTube. Shortly thereafter two articles were published on the UK Corrupt Police website with one dated 15th December 2018 that can be found on pages 302-303 of the trial bundle. It was headed “Inspector Jolly of Lancashire Police protects a knife offender from prosecution”. HHJ Knifton QC then went on to summarise the article which accused Inspector Jolly of perverting the course of justice and having knowingly failed to investigate. Dated 21st March 2019 at pages 306-307 there was an article headed “Inspector Jolly protects Lancashire police informant Paul Turner from prosecution” and went on to allege that Inspector Jolly was colluding with a number of criminals which caused alarm and distress.

Inspector Jolly had said in his evidence that he had no knowledge as to whether Paul Turner was an informant and that it was grossly misrepresenting his actions. From the impression HHJ Knifton QC saw and heard from his oral evidence he rejected the suggestion that Inspector Jolly had colluded and conspired with criminals. Inspector Jolly had accepted that there had been occasions he had had email contact with Hogan for a legitimate reason, but Hogan’s decision to publish this email had nothing to do with Inspector Jolly and the Defendant’s conspiracy theories were nothing more than that.

Inspector Jolly had been deeply affected by the attacks on his character and found it very hard to believe it as he had simply been trying to do his best. After just one conversation he had been vilified as a rogue cop and was distressed that it was linked to from a Google search, but even without that he was worried about the effect on his daughter. The strain had been so great that he had been seconded to Headquarters for a period of respite. Inspector Jolly had told of the reassurance and support he had received after being vilified by the Defendant and his frustration that so much of his time (estimated at 50-75%) and public expense incurred on matters to do with the Defendant which had impacted his other police duties to the people of West Lancashire.

Inspector Jolly had described how he had had to interrupt a family meal to provide reassurance to a colleague on a matter involving the Defendant by telephone.

HHJ Knifton QC commented that whilst the Defendant sought to defend the posts as the Defendant honestly believed dishonesty and corruption and whilst this may be the Defendant’s belief it was distorted and with no basis in fact. HHJ Knifton QC’s judgement was that Inspector Jolly was a honest police officer and he rejected the Defendant’s assertions. HHJ Knifton QC took into account the substantial intervention into Inspector Jolly’s right to a private and family life.

Chief Inspector Jones had joined from Merseyside Police in September 2018. One of his duties had been to carry out an assessment of the demands on staff and their effectiveness in performing their duties. During the course of evidence a phone call between Chief Inspector Jones and the Defendant on the 1st November 2018 was referred to. This was not directly addressed in the witness statements, but not in dispute. Shortly after taking up his post, the Defendant was telephoned on the 1st November 2018 to update the Defendant on allegations made by the Defendant in an email.

On the 16th November 2018 the Professional Standards Department of Lancashire Police wrote the Defendant a long letter regarding various complaints made against Inspector Jolly, a copy of the letter was not in the trial bundle but had been provided to HHJ Knifton QC. On page 5 of the letter a phone call was referred to and Chief Inspector Jones advised that a full explanation as to why the telephone conversation was terminated was after the Defendant called Inspector Jolly “a fucking fool”. In 2018 the Defendant made a formal complaint alleging that Inspector Jolly had lied when he had stated that the Defendant had called him “a fucking fool”.

The Professional Standards Department responded to that complaint and a copy of that letter could be found on pages 843-844 of the bundle. HHJ Knifton QC then quoted from the letter. Chief Inspector Jones had asked Inspector Jolly to provide a response. Inspector Jolly stated that he had contacted the Defendant by telephone on the 1st November 2018 to update the Defendant on a number of investigations. It was made clear that Inspector Jolly had not personally reviewed these investigations but was providing an update on behalf of other officers.

During the course of the telephone call, the Defendant became more and more irate and argumentative. Inspector Jolly warned the Defendant twice before he believed that words to the effect of “You’re a fucking fool” were used. Chief Inspector Jones believed those were the words that were used as he did not have a copy of the phone call, therefore was unable to corroborate but that he must take into account that the phone call had been some months earlier without the benefit of a recording. Based on the information therefore there was no evidence that Inspector Jolly had maliciously lied to you [the Defendant].

A copy of the recording was then supplied to the Professional Standards Department leading to a further response on the 5th February 2020. A copy of that response was at page 845. After listening to the recording that was provided it was confirmed that the Defendant had said that Inspector Jolly was a “fool like the rest of the dicks” and although it was accepted that the exact words were not “fucking fool” it had been offensive and similar in tone. There was no evidence he had lied to discredit the Defendant even if the recollection was not word for word accurate as the Defendant’s comment was still offensive.

On the 27th July 2019 the Defendant posted an article on the UK Corrupt Police website that was headlined at pages 221-222 of the trial bundle in these terms “Chief Inspector Ian Jones caught lying making a false malicious allegation”. There was a photo of Chief Inspector Jones, the article alleged that he had been caught out lying and there was a further photo of Chief Inspector Jones. It referred to a phone call which had been fortunately recorded and a false allegation that the Defendant had called Inspector Jolly “a fucking idiot” during a phone call. There was a further photo of Chief Inspector Jones and it went on to allege that Chief Inspector Jones was a liar and an idiot for making a false and easily provable lie.

The photos of Chief Inspector Jones included one where he had been supporting a charity, there may even be two. HHJ Knifton QC observed that it was somewhat ironic that the version the Defendant had put on the website mistakenly used the word “idiot” rather than “fool”.

Chief Inspector Jones had told of the immense harm and distress it had caused him. It had been discovered by his daughter after a Google search in relation to charity work. The Defendant had refused to accept the position that Chief Inspector Jones had just made a mistake and quoted from the evidence that the Defendant had accused Chief Inspector Jones of “outright dishonesty”. Bearing in mind the importance, HHJ Knifton QC had asked for a copy of the audio recording of the telephone call to be made available to him, a link had been made available as had the notebook entry of Chief Inspector Jones. HHJ Knifton QC read out the relevant part that stated that the Defendant was more and more irate, started to swear, was very argumentative and said words to the effect of “you are a fool, like the rest of them you are a fucking fool”. This was consistent with the initial letter from the Professional Standards Department in the trial bundle.

HHJ Knifton QC had listened to the recording on far more sensitive equipment. Chief Inspector Jones was polite and courteous. The Defendant stated he had discussed matters with a solicitor. Inspector Jones states that he was simply updating the Defendant on inquiries, but he was not involved with the investigations himself. The Defendant was told that the allegations regarding Paul Turner are not to be taken further. The Defendant stated that it is “bullshit” and was told to stop swearing. There was the suggestion of a face to face meeting as the Defendant is sick to death of Lancashire Police bullshitting him. The Defendant is told if he swears one more time then the phone will be put down on him. A few moments later the Defendant is told there will be no further action regarding Brooks. The Defendant responds by stating his assurance that it would not be the last that Chief Inspector Jones would hear of this. The final part was difficult to hear as both the Defendant and Chief Inspector Jones are speaking over each other before the phone is put down but before then it was stated “you’re a fool, you’re like the rest of the dicks in the police”.

HHJ Knifton QC was satisfied that the Defendant had in fact used the phrase “fucking fool” immediately prior to termination of the call and went on to refer to the response at page 243. The Defendant was irate, was warned twice about swearing and called Inspector Jolly “a fool like the rest of the dicks”. There was no justification and in the internet posts had made false and malicious allegations. The website posts were grossly offensive and HHJ Knifton QC accepted that the Defendant had caused significant harassment, alarm and distress to Inspector Jolly. The use of photos, particularly when not in uniform had been a gross violation of article 8.

On the 26th April 2018 the Defendant had been assaulted by a man called Whitehead. Sergeant Appleton was put in charge of gathering evidence and in an update told the Defendant that Whitehead had been charged and told not to approach the Defendant. There was a plea hearing in the Magistrates’ Court and the Defendant had attended to provide a victim impact statement if Whitehead pleaded guilty. There was an incident in the waiting area. It was alleged that there was shouting and abuse which was reported to the police as an allegation of breach of bail conditions. The alleged breach was investigated. The court ushers had not seen the commencement but described what they had seen. The CCTV was also viewed.

The Defendant had chosen to sit near Whitehead despite the availability of other seats. Whitehead had also contacted the police alleging that Whitehead had been goaded by the Defendant.

As a result and because Whitehead had surrendered to bail, it was considered by the Crown Prosecution Service who made the final decision to be insufficient. The Defendant had been phoned on the 9th February 2019 to inform him of this. The Defendant used the word “bullshit” and stated he would make a formal complaint. Sergeant Appleton informed the Defendant that the outcome was no further action. The Defendant stated that Sergeant Appleton was twisting events to suit a lack of willing to help. Sergeant Appleton replied that he was not in a position to adjudicate what happened in the Magistrates’ Court. The Defendant immediately swore and threatened another formal complaint.

HHJ Knifton QC gave this as yet another example of the Defendant’s attitude and accepted that it had caused harassment and distress.

By way of background, after numerous complaints made by the Defendant to the police, there was a policy that body worn video should be used so that there was an accurate record. The Defendant was notified of this policy and served with a copy.

At the meeting with Superintendent Thistlethwaite, the minutes of the meeting which commence at page 809, the Defendant objected to the policy referring to it as intimidating and contrary to College of Policing policy guidance that it had to be proportionate, necessary and incident specific. The Defendant maintained this view during the course of giving evidence.

There was an inconsistent approach as some police officers used it and some did not. Given the importance to the Defendant of CCTV regarding justification the Defendant was well aware and there were no reasonable grounds to object to its use as the risk of unfounded allegations justified its use.

On the 14th April 2018 police officers Clark and Corris attended at Ormskirk for a statement requested by another police force regarding an allegation about Wilkes. Body worn camera was activated and the Defendant was advised that it was activated. The Defendant became agitated and stated it was a breach of his human rights and refused to provide a statement unless it was turned off. After negotiation, provided his wife was permitted to film on a mobile phone, despite reservations it was allowed. The Defendant covered his head with his coat.

The Defendant had a prepared written statement which police officer Clark copied into the formal statement. When asked to sign the statement the Defendant insisted on adding that it had been taken under duress. It was agreed that it could be added, then the statement was signed and forwarded on to the investigating force.

After this relatively brief interaction police officers Clark and Corris were shocked to be named on the UK Corrupt Police website which was on page 383 of the trial bundle.

Dated April 15th 2019, it was headed “Lancashire police pawns PC Clark and PC Corris pervert the course of justice”. In the article the Defendant went on to refer to one named police officer as a “nob” and asked the rhetorical question in relation to another, “is this guy for real”. The Defendant goes on to state that under duress had been written into the statement and alleged that as the Defendant had been initially refused to provide a statement in his own words that that was why he hadn’t signed it and alleged the police officer had insisted on writing it.

Further comments were made regarding future publication online of footage from body worn video cameras by police officers interacting with the Defendant and a number of photos captured from the video footage recorded from Mrs Ponting’s mobile phone were used.

PC Clark had stated that he was proud to be a police officer, but shaken at the article’s allegation that he had perverted the course of justice by placing a witness under duress. Anyone viewing the article might believe it. He was scared with regards to his safety of himself and family and felt vulnerable and constantly worried.

PC Corris had told that he had never been accused of being corrupt in over thirty years. In that time he had been sworn at, spat at, abused and assaulted. PC Corris was disgusted, shocked and fearful of PC Corris’ own and PC Corris’ family’s safety. It had been suggested in cross-examination that PC Corris had been somewhat emotive in the language used. However HHJ Knifton QC’s view was it was justified and the impact of publication had been to stop roles by PC Corris in covert policing in the future. A Google search on the name brought up the article as the first link. As an exercise the previous night HHJ Knifton QC had done this and confirmed it was correct. HHJ Knifton QC found that the Defendant had caused significant harm, alarm and distress. The Defendant had suggested it was a breach of his human rights, but it had been legitimate and proportionate and HHJ Knifton QC found the Defendant was being deliberately difficult.

In similar findings regarding a police sergeant, the assertion that the Defendant was allowed to record within the police station HHJ Knifton QC again found the Defendant was being deliberately difficult. The Defendant had been advised he could film in the public area, but only audio in the private area. Despite this eminently sensible approach adopted, it led to a confrontational manner and swearing. There was an altercation and a police officer left the inquiry desk via a door. The Defendant was arrested, a breach of the peace was alleged and the Defendant was convicted by magistrates, but on an appeal allowed by consent bound over to keep the peace. HHJ Knifton QC found that there was no basis for the inflammatory comments in articles, although there had not been objections to the filming by Mrs Ponting it was a flagrant breach of article 8 rights.

HHJ Knifton QC found that there was more than adequate evidence of the first part. Chief Inspector Jones and Detective Superintendent Winstanley had referred to the complaints made against police officers and staff which was consistent with a pattern of behaviour by the Defendant towards officers and staff of Lancashire Constabulary.

In short HHJ Knifton QC was satisfied that the Defendant had engaged in antisocial behaviour. HHJ Knifton QC then had to consider whether it was “just and convenient” to grant an injunction to prevent the Defendant from engaging in future in antisocial behaviour and HHJ Knifton QC concluded without hesitation that it was for the following eight reasons:-

1) The Defendant had been engaged in antisocial behaviour over a considerable period of time which had caused distress and diverted police resources. An injunction protected against future unwanted harm and distress.

2) It extended beyond Lancashire Police, as the Defendant had been similarly offensive towards a company employing a former police officer, a Member of Parliament (who had initially been supportive of him) and also judges who had ruled against him on previous occasions.

3) The Defendant continues to defend as justified lying about recording the meeting with Superintendent Thistlethwaite, the Defendant had no sympathy for most police officers who were the subject of his postings, in the Defendant’s opinion he had done nothing wrong and stated he had behaved faultlessly throughout. None of the articles had been removed since the interim injunction.

4) The Defendant accepted the power in making or bringing complaints and HHJ Knifton referred to the call handler changing their mind and also the Defendant stating that by using the internet it makes people listen and that he would never had sat before a Superintendent had he not used the internet and made so many complaints.

5) Although the Defendant had suggested he was willing to engage in mediation, the evidence suggested otherwise. On page 848 of the trial bundle Superintendant Thistlethwaite had suggested wide ranging options, a mediator and proposed a clear process. However it had rapidly broken down at the outset over it not being tape recorded. This was to allow a process based on mutual trust. Despite the Defendant stating that he and his wife would not record, he covertly did so. To justify this he let his guard down in oral evidence and described it as a “little fib”, however HHJ Knifton QC described this as a “flagrantly dishonest action and breach of trust”. There had also been agreement not to put details of the contents of the meeting on the internet which was the usual procedure regarding mediation. Clearly further meetings were envisaged, but the Defendant chose to publish selected details. HHJ Knifton QC also referred to derogatory comments made by the Defendant about the mediation process, how the Defendant was offensive about Superintendent Thistlethwaite and therefore had no interest in mediation.

6) The Defendant had largely complied with the contact policy but HHJ Knifton QC accepted that the Defendant described it as a “bullshit policy” that the Defendant sought to challenge in court, therefore there was the risk of breach if not enforced by a court order.

7) The absence of significant issues since the interim injunction was an indication that it was effective in securing its purpose.

8) The purpose of the injunction as a whole was legitimate and to protect against alarm, harassment and distress.

HHJ Knifton QC was satisfied there was a clear and compelling need for the injunction.

In regards to the terms of the injunction and the restrictions on article 10 rights, it was in accordance with the law and a democratic society to protect the rights and reputations of others. Article 10 had to be balanced with article 8. The Defendant had been abusive, intimidatory and antisocial but this was at the lower end, see the Birmingham City Council case.

With regards to attaching a power of arrest, HHJ Knifton QC was not satisfied that there had been the use or threatened use of violence nor a significant risk of harm to justify a power of arrest. An injunction was appropriate and proportionate. In the event of a breach, committal proceedings could decide on prison if proven. HHJ Knifton QC wanted to hear from counsel.

Mr Bonner made a comment that there may be relevant details not dealt with. Mr Gow brought up the issue of duration. HHJ Knifton QC stated it would be dealt with in the wording of the injunction. Mr Gow stated he had neither observations to make on the law or the facts. HHJ Knifton QC stated that he proposed to use as a model the injunction of Miss Recorder Williams QC subject to any variations now sought.

Mr Bonner asked for a variation in terms returning to what was in the original paragraph 4 on page 5 of the initial interim injunction which had been removed at the second hearing. He wanted the part dealing with employer or former employer changed to “employer of any form”. HHJ Knifton QC agreed and asked if there were any observations. Mr Gow answered that any objections raised would be spurious. HHJ Knifton QC accepted that it would be included in the injunction.

HHJ Knifton QC stated that it had been raised on Wednesday whether there should be a positive direction in the injunction to remove from the website posts that fell within the description of paragraph b of the order of Miss Recorder Williams QC. HHJ Knifton QC felt it was entirely appropriate to make such an order.

HHJ Knifton QC had initially considered an order taking down the website altogether on Wednesday, but as he hadn’t seen all the items on it for all he knew there may be legitimate parts such as advertising which the Defendant would be entitled to retain despite that everything HHJ Knifton QC had seen during the course of the trial made him believe otherwise, unless he was invited to he was not going beyond what was suggested.

Mr Bonner asked to be allowed a moment for final confirmation. Mr Gow asked HHJ Knifton QC to forgive his back.

Mr Bonner stated that he understood that there may be other posts that may not offend, but it may be that the logistics were for the Defendant.

HHJ Knifton QC made further comment about the removal of the posts, the injunction and the risk. Mr Bonner referred to the removal of posts and asked about timescale?

HHJ Knifton QC stated he was minded to state within 7 days, although he imagined all posts could be removed instantaneously, but there were numerous posts so 7 days, he wanted to hear from Mr Gow. Mr Gow confirmed that the Defendant can take down within 7 days the posts that have anything which refers to Lancashire Police, or by name to police officers or has photos. It would all be taken down.

HHJ Knifton QC confirmed yes. Mr Gow continued that anything with photos, names of those involved in Lancashire Constabulary, all the posts referred to in the exhibits would be taken down if the Defendant was in any doubt the Defendant was to take it down, he had given clear advice. HHJ Knifton QC again replied “yes”.

Mr Gow asked what if the posts had been posted on the website by persons other than the Defendant? HHJ Knifton QC referred to the injunction prohibiting the Defendant using personal material about current or former police officers either by name or description as well as on any social media. If it was by someone else it would be difficult to prove contempt, but if the Defendant was the controlling editor it would include posts whether by himself or instructing, encouraging or permitting any other person too.

Mr Gow stated that anything posted by the Defendant such as photos would be taken off the website. Mr Ponting (the Defendant) had raised a large number of points for example one just to give a flavour was that he still intended to publish a book.

HHJ Knifton QC raised the duration of the injunction. Mr Bonner stated that it could be either for a fixed period or until further order or indefinite. Based on the longevity of the issues identified and the nature of the harassment and distress in this case he felt until further order was appropriate with appropriate provisions as to how to act if variation was sought or discharge. HHJ Knifton QC asked Mr Gow for a response. Mr Gow answered that it was a matter entirely at HHJ Knifton QC’s discretion.

HHJ Knifton QC stated that having regard to the terms, in his judgement an indefinite injunction with terms that it would last until a further order. It was open to either party to apply to vary or discharge the injunction should the party consider that there were grounds for the court to do so.

Mr Bonner asked in terms of direction or positive requirement could it stated 4 pm on the 20th March?

HHJ Knifton QC invited Mr Bonnar to prepare a draft as he would like the opportunity to see it to confirm the wording. He asked how long it would take?

Mr Bonner stated it would take less than 30 minutes.

HHJ Knifton QC stated it was preferable to be dealt with today and it should be possible to email it to the clerk for formal printing, then it could be formally served on the Defendant with a copy to take with him.

Mr Bonner agreed that this was desirable.

HHJ Knifton QC asked if there were further matters?

Mr Bonner referred to a costs schedule which he agreed to exchange the appropriate schedules which he would hand forward. There had been two earlier hearings and as the court knew it had been a very involved process.

HHJ Knifton QC asked for the charge used for the instructing solicitor. Mr Bonnar referred to the second page it was at national grade 3.

HHJ Knifton QC made a further comment. Mr Gow stated that costs were at HHJ Knifton QC’s discretion, but he would make this point. Mr Ponting had stated there were no attempt at warning or mitigation, so therefore his starting point was there should be no costs.

The second one was that the costs seemed to be excessive and detailed assessment would be better. It was a significant sum and although the Defendant was not a man of straw, he had had to borrow money to pay his own legal costs in proceedings. The Defendant needed time to get the money to pay such a significant sum and there was a need for detailed assessment rather than summary. A reduced cost was appropriate. The Defendant’s costs as he acted as a litigant in person earlier paid to Mr Gow were far smaller than the sum of £36,000 which he considered extremely excessive.

HHJ Knifton QC asked if he had a specific point regarding the schedule of costs which he took issue with? Mr Gow stated that he would normally have his instructing solicitor deal with it but the conference between solicitor and counsel was excessive at 11 hours and 48 minutes.

HHJ Knifton QC asked if there was more than one? Mr Bonner replied that there were at least two, there may have been three, followed by he was sure there were three.

Mr Gow stated there had been too many conferences and casework of 41 hours was excessive, attendance upon client of 14 hours in his opinion should be 10. Court hearings, drafting letters, preparation 7 hours was because of the abundance of paperwork. There was an awful lot of telephone calls which were excessive. He also objected to travelling costs to and from Lancashire. The interim application was £7,000 and he asked a question about the full application?

Mr Bonner replied that it was for a brief fee, two conferences and 4 days of hearings. Mr Gow suggested there was double counting. HHJ Knifton QC asked a question. Mr Gow stated that it should be £5,000 for the hearings and £500 each for the conferences making £6,000. His (Mr Gow’s) fee had been £5,000 + VAT so he didn’t comprehend that. Those were his submissions, he asked HHJ Knifton QC to forgive his back. Then he apologised and stated that just so he knew he had been explaining his observations on the interim injunction to the Defendant. Mr Gow then made a further point as to whether a costs order was still appropriate.

HHJ Knifton QC stated that he had already got that point in mind. Mr Gow stated that the costs should be reduced. Mr Bonner stated that all three conferences were all together.

HHJ Knifton QC stated that this applied to the costs of bringing injunction proceedings. It had been suggested by the Defence that there should be no costs order because the application had been made without notice and that the Defendant could not comply without proceedings being issued to him. HHJ Knifton QC rejected this assertion. The usual principle was that costs follow the event.

The Claimant was entitled to costs and a summary assessment was appropriate. The bill was for £36,476.66, the solicitor’s charging rate had been grade 3 at a rate of £201 an hour which was an entirely appropriate rate except for the travelling charges for which there should be some reduction.

In general the costs were reasonable and proportionate, but as already observed the application had been made without notice so some costs would have been saved if instead it had proceeded to an on notice hearing, so some allowances to that had to be made. Therefore costs were assessed in the sum of £30,000.

Mr Bonner explained that the draft order may be sooner than thirty minutes. The hearing was adjourned.

The hearing resumed at 4.49 pm. HHJ Knifton QC stated that he was concerned with the wording of paragraph d as it would mean if a former police officer was employed by Tescos then the Defendant couldn’t contact Tescos so it should be amended to any matter relating to their service. Mr Bonnar agreed to this.

Mr Bonner asked with the approval of the court if at the end of d was added concerning the service of said personnel whilst employed by Lancashire Constabulary. HHJ Knifton QC stated that subject to that he would approve the order in those terms. He understood that it was a solemn court order and should it be breached the Defendant was liable to be imprisoned for contempt of court. The draft copy would be sealed.

Mr Bonner stated that with the addition of those words he would make sure it was printed and handed to parties in due course. Mr Gow stated that before HHJ Knifton QC rose it had been a pleasure.

HHJ Knifton QC thanked him. He stated that he was not sure of the current position on court bundles, but the Bar Council directive encouraged people to give it back. Mr Bonner stated he would take responsibility. HHJ Knifton QC made a further comment about additional documents left on the court file. The hearing ended.

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Author: John Brace
New media journalist from Birkenhead, England who writes about Wirral Council. Published and promoted by John Brace, 134 Boundary Road, Bidston, CH43 7PH. Printed by UK Webhosting Ltd t/a Tsohost, 113-114 Buckingham Avenue, Slough, Berkshire, England, SL1 4PF. View all posts by John Brace

Author John BracePosted on 16 March 20206 August 2021Categories Lancashire Constabulary, Liverpool County Court

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