Regular readers will no doubt recall this remarkable case, in which Notting Hill Genesis sought and obtained a freezing injunction against a disbarred barrister, Katrina McCarthy for tortiously inducing a breach of contract by getting NHG’s tenant to pay the rent money to her in what she claimed was a ‘court rent account’ for a disrepair dispute, thus giving rise to arrears and a possession claim. Katrina McCarthy then had the chutzpah to purport to be the tenant’s McKenzie Friend in the possession proceedings (without, obviously, turning over any of the money she had taken, some £23,000.)
There is now a sequel, reported in Inside Housing. NHG, via their solicitors, had attempted to serve the freezing injunction on Katrina McCarthy personally, but the person at the address denied being Ms McCarthy and refused to take the order. At the return date of the freezing injunction in September, Katrina McCarthy did not attend, with no reason given to the court. No information on her finances was given, in breach of the freezing injunction requirements.
A bench warrant was issued for Katrina McCarthy to attend the next hearing, the court clearly being satisfied that she was aware of the hearing date and had received the documents in some manner. A costs order was made against her.
At the next hearing on 11 October, Katrina McCarthy again did not attend, with no reason given to the court.
The Judge was satisfied that the hearing could proceed without Ms McCarthy being present, and after finding that Ms McCarthy “has not co-operated with these proceedings at all”, that she had shown “no acceptance of responsibility, no apology, no contrition” and that her non-attendance in court was “deliberate and flagrant”, a sentence was made for contempt of court.
A sentence of nine months, suspended for two weeks was made. That effectively gave Ms McCarthy two weeks to try to purge her contempt.
Given that Inside Housing quote Katrina McCarthy as responding to them by saying
“NHG have used this action in bringing me to court to suggest that that they are safeguarding theirs tenant.
“This is a blatant misstatement, they have in this matter left the tenant with established rising damp since 2020, to live in conditions that are uninhabitable.
“NHG did not serve any documents relating to the contempt of court, of which the court now are addressing. I am here to help people being victimised by the establishment. They have slandered my name in an attempt to shut me up and isolate me, which will not work.”
It seems a bit unlikely that Ms McCarthy has availed herself of those two weeks. Or handed over the money. Note to Ms McCarthy, you are not a fighter for justice if you nick the tenant’s money under false pretences and cause an outright possession order to be made against them.
(Though NHG are very much not proceeding on the possession order, I hasten to add. It is not often I congratulate NHG, but their actions since this all came to light have been excellent. Also well done to Liam Hale of Winckworth Sherwood and Tom Morris of Landmark Chambers on this one.)
Now I am very much not a fan of contempt of court sentences being passed in the absence of the party (and Ms McCarthy has an appeal as of right, without needing permission), but this does seem like one of those cases where it is merited. It is not about Ms McCarthy, for instance, not being told she had a right to legal aid representation at the hearing, or similar, and the court proceeding anyway. It was a deliberate refusal to attend and also to comply with an injunction. Quite properly, there was a period of suspension of sentence to enable either purging of contempt or other application or appeal.
We may well hear more in the future, but as it stands, what Katrina did next was quite possibly go to prison.