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Jailed grandmother tells of ordeal

A 72-year-old woman jailed for hugging her granddaughter in breach of a court order has been freed by a judge - but branded her ordeal "humiliating".

Kathleen Danby apologised to the court paving the way for a reduction in the three-month jail sentence, handed down earlier this year at Birmingham's Court of Protection, to be cut to time already served.

However, outside court the defiant pensioner described a lengthy ordeal which had seen her arrested and "bundled" from a Ken Dodd show in Liverpool on Sunday, before being driven on a 200-mile trip between court and prison.

Wearing a large red coat, Mrs Danby said she was finding it "difficult" to believe the lengths the authorities had gone to bring her before the family court today.

In April, a judge sentenced her to prison in her absence after watching CCTV evidence of Mrs Danby greeting the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, with a hug outside a pub.

But reducing the sentence of Mrs Danby, of Kirkwall on the island of Orkney, Judge Sally Dowding told the pensioner "I am satisfied she fully appreciates the difficulties of her position and what she must do, and I am confident she will comply in future."

Contempt of court proceedings were brought by Derbyshire County Council, which is responsible for looking after Mrs Danby's now 19-year-old granddaughter.

The local authority had alleged the pensioner was in breach of court orders made in September 2013, and January and April 2014.

Those orders banned the frail Mrs Danby from any communication, save a single supervised monthly phonecall, or visiting the granddaughter's home town, college, or going within 100m of the girl.

In court, Mrs Danby's solicitor Sarah Huntbach said her client "sincerely apologised" for being in the town where her granddaughter now lives, explaining she was only there "to meet a friend".

It was, she added, while stood outside a pub her granddaughter - who has a learning disability and emotional difficulties, approached her and they embraced.

"She did not intend or want to be in breach of these (court) orders, or dishonour the court in any way", said Mrs Huntbach.

Mrs Danby denied intentionally going to meet her granddaughter, but "apologised for any nuisance that has arisen as a consequence".

Judge Dowding said it was "very sad" Mrs Danby had "failed to comply" with the court orders, which evidence showed had had "a detrimental effect" on the granddaughter's behaviour, "with consequences serious and profound".

However, she said it was Mrs Danby's right "to purge her contempt" before the court.

The spirited pensioner has been in custody since her arrest on Sunday in Liverpool, where she had been enjoying a performance by the comedian Ken Dodd.

She was escorted in to court by four security officers, and wearing handcuffs, but smiled and seemed unflustered as she walked into Court 11A.

Mrs Dowding said she noted the judgment of Judge Martin Cardinal, in April, who had been satisfied Mrs Danby "had engineered a meeting" with the granddaughter - named during proceedings as B, despite Mrs Danby's explanation.

"There is very clear evidence these events brought about a detriment in B's behaviour and the consequences were serious and profound," added Mrs Dowding.

She said it had never been the case the local authority was "seeking to isolate the child from her family", pointing out that the granddaughter's maternal family "have regular contact".

The judge added "the door is now open to Mrs Danby to seek, at any stage, to enter into constructive dialogue with the local authority - but must understand the granddaughter's needs".

Mrs Dowding said otherwise, the pensioner had the options of applying for a contact order or to vary or discharge the orders she has breached.

Outside court, Mrs Danby said she had been put through "a humiliating ordeal".

Asked if she had been scared in jail however, she laughed, replying: "No, I wasn't scared.

"I don't scare easily."

She described how the day after her arrest she was taken to the Birmingham court but claimed "nobody knew what was going on", when she arrived with security officers.

"I was sat there for three hours, wasting time," said Mrs Danby.

"Then a lady came from the court and said 'Mrs Danby wasn't supposed to be taken here, she was supposed to be taken to (HMP) Foston Hall (in Derby)'.

"So, this is then a 200-mile journey, so they took me in a rickety old van, while I was suffering a loss of sleep."

At the all-women prison, she was allocated a cell and claimed the medication she needs to treat her liver disease was taken off her because it could not initially be identified.

"It is very difficult because I cannot believe they'll go to these lengths to pursue a 72-year-old woman who's got a liver disease, just in order to keep control over my granddaughter, which is what they're trying to do.

"I can't tell you anymore about my granddaughter."

Asked about what her views were on the county council's decision to apply for contempt of court proceedings, she replied: "You really don't want to know - there aren't words to describe what I think of Derbyshire County Council."

MP John Hemming, who is calling for family law to be reformed and is chairman of the Justice for Families Campaign Group, was at court supporting Mrs Danby.

The Liberal Democrat member for Birmingham Yardley was made aware of her case by political party colleague Alistair Carmichael, as she is a resident of his Orkney and Shetland constituency.

Mr Hemming said her case was one among many, affecting families up and down the country.

"You've got this poor old granny being traipsed around in handcuffs because she hugged her granddaughter," he said.

"It is ordinary people subject to an abuse of power, and there's many more of these cases going on.

"These are the strange sorts of things that happen in this country."

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