Homeless man jailed for six months for contempt – despite ‘negligent’ representation by Maidment/Forbes Solicitors

A homeless man with mental health issues has been given a six-month jail term after a High Court judge concluded he had breached an order forbidding him to interfere with staff providing care to an elderly relative – despite what the judge called ‘negligent’ representation by a firm of solicitors who acted for him earlier in the case.

Unemployed Andrew Palmer, 52, was jailed at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London on Friday after Mr Justice Keehan ruled that he was in contempt of court.

Former lorry driver Palmer, who, the judge heard, had been living in a tent, admitted wrongdoing and apologised.

He said he loved his relative, who lives near Stafford, and was not happy about the care being provided.

Mr Justice Keehan had made the order in February.

The order barred Palmer from trying to coerce his relative into leaving home and from interfering with care staff.

In June, the judge had found that Palmer had breached the order and imposed a suspended sentence.

He activated that sentence on Friday after concluding that Palmer had continued to breach the order.

The judge said Palmer was in “blatant contempt” and must learn that court orders had to be complied with.

Social services bosses at Staffordshire County Council have responsibility for the care of Palmer’s relative and had made contempt allegations.

Barrister Nageena Khalique QC, who represented the council, outlined detail of breaches of the order to the judge.

Barrister Paul Spencer, who represented Palmer for free, said Palmer had mental health issues and would “struggle to survive” in prison.

He said Palmer was “isolated” and felt “very much alone”.

– In June, Mr Justice Keehan had criticised a firm of solicitors which had represented Palmer at an earlier stage of proceedings. He said Maidments, a firm also known as Forbes, had provided “negligent” representation.

He said an employee of the firm had “incompetently misunderstood” an issue relating to legal aid and the firm had lost a bundle of documents. He said the firm was “negligent in their conduct of their representation”‘ and should pick up a £6,500 bill run up by Staffordshire council. The judge said money had been wasted because of the firm’s conduct.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook described the sentence as ‘barbaric’.

Mr Leech said: “This man had to be represented for free because his earlier solicitors messed up the legal aid application, this is not the kind of person we should be packing off to prison, this is a case for mediation, social services and mental health teams – not prison.”

18 Months for Judge Attack Man


A fitness instructor who attacked a judge and knocked off his wig at Ipswich Crown Court has been jailed for 18 months after admitting contempt of court.

Paul Graham, 27, of Quendon Place, Haverhill, raced from the public gallery and vaulted over a gate to get behind the judge’s bench before throwing punches at Judge John Devaux in court two.

Judge Devaux had just sentenced his brother, Philip Graham, 30, of the same address, to 30 months in prison for causing death by dangerous driving.

Appearing in handcuffs and wearing a black vest top before Judge David Goodin, Paul Graham admitted contempt.

He was flanked in the dock by three security guards throughout the hearing and an extra guard stood by the exit.

Judge Goodin described how the High Sheriff of Suffolk Sir Edward Greenwell and a local clergyman who had been sitting alongside Judge Devaux “did their best to bring the attack to an end”.

Police officers in the case managed to restrain Paul Graham before security guards led him away.

“When the judge had passed the inevitable sentence of imprisonment, you left the public gallery at speed, travelled down the side of the court very fast, vaulted over the wooden gate at the side of the bench, physically attacked Judge Devaux by punches which actually caused no physical injury,” he said.

“That conduct was disruptive, insulting and intimidating. It was a contempt of court.

“We have in this country courts which are open to the public, but what you did was an attack on justice, on the administration of justice, an attack on the rule of law.

“Any violent physical attack on the judge or any member of court staff or officer of the court must be dealt with severely.”

Richard Potts, mitigating, said his client did not accept he threw punches but accepted there had been a struggle and that he had behaved in an intimidating manner.

He added: “He has instructed me to apologise unreservedly on his behalf. He is a physically fit man and had he really wished to do real physical harm, there is no doubt he could have done so.

“It was a spontaneous act borne out of high emotion. It was an outpouring of grief. There is going to be a substantial diminution in the family as a result of both brothers being in custody.”

He added that Paul Graham had a university education and was qualified as a security guard and personal trainer.

Philip Graham was convicted after a trial earlier this year of killing father-of-two Derek Foster, 37, when his car hit the victim’s motorcycle on the B1054 in July last year.

Mr Foster’s widow and family were in court at the time of the attack.

Court reporter Jane Hunt, who witnessed the drama, wrote in the East Anglian Daily Times: “In a matter of seconds, and before anyone had time to react, the man raced past the press bench where I was sitting and past lawyers involved in the case and vaulted a wooden gate leading to the area where Judge Devaux was.

“During the melee Judge Devaux’s wig and glasses were pulled off and after the man, who was ranting and shouting abuse throughout the incident, was pulled away from him the judge was led from court by staff looking shaken but apparently uninjured.”