Paula Hamilton, a model who recently appeared on Celebrity Big Brother (apparently), appeared the Magistrates’ Court on 15th February 2013 after being convicted of assaulting a police officer. She was fined £400 and picked up a further bill of £650 in costs (plus the mandatory £15 victim surcharge).
The facts are slightly unusual. It seems that the police were called to her house last September as she had been threatening to commit suicide. It seems that she may have been a bit the worse for wear (she had drunk a bottle of wine). Police officers are used to dealing with that sort of situation, but were probably not expecting to be attacked with a sunflower.
It seems that it was agreed on all sides that the officer was hit in the chest after he was approached by Ms Hamilton carrying a 14 foot sunflower. The issue at the trial is whether this was a deliberate assault with an unusual choice of weapon (the Prosecution case), or an accident after Ms Hamilton tried to present him with a present of a flower (her case).
The offence is ‘assaulting a constable in the course of his duty’, contrary to s89 Police Act 1996. It is basically a Common Assault, but aggravated by the fact that the victim was acting as a Police Officer at the time.
The offence is summary only and has a maximum sentence of six months. This is the same maximum sentence as Common Assault, despite the fact that it is an aggravated form of that offence.
There are sentencing guidelines. Looking at the facts that have been reported, it would seem to be ‘lower harm’. The Court could have found that there was a ‘higher culpability’ on the basis of a weapon (the flower) although this is a marginal call, and it certainly has the feel of lower culpability. Given the sentence, it seemed that the magistrates found it to be lower culpability.
On that basis, the starting point after a trial would have been a Band B fine. Here, it is impossible to say where the case would have fallen based on the sentence as we don’t know how much Ms Hamilton earns.
The (relatively) high level of costs is due to the fact that there was a trial. One question that does arise is why, given that the Court will normally put compensation before other financial order, Ms Hamilton was not ordered to pay anything to the officer that felt the rough end of her sunflower? The news reports are silent and so we don’t know why that may be …