I thought it would be useful to log the progress of my S91 action and my complaint about the lack of guidance provided by the court.
22nd March 2010 Took notice to the Wycombe & Beaconsfield Magistrates Court and saw one of their legal advisers. Agreed to return with a statement and photo evidence to be attached to the complaint.
24th March 2010 Meet with same legal adviser who got me to sign the complaint and took the package from me. I offered to pay any fee that was required but was not asked to.
30th March 2010 I rang and progressed the complaint and said I was concerned that I had heard nothing from them and had not paid any fee. I was told that the complaint had that day been signed by a Court official
9th April 2010 I phoned again expressing concern over not having been asked for a fee and was told me the adviser would call me on 12th April
12th April 2010 The adviser rang me and explained that
1. I needed to send in a cheque for £200.
2.Nothing had yet been sent to the defendant
3.The hearing had been set for 7th June
4.If contested I would need to pay a further fee of £500 and the hearing on the 7th would be a preliminary one to set up the contested hearing.
5. If successful I could apply to the court for the other party to pay my costs including the fees.
I asked for advice on how any future application for a S91 complaint should be actioned. She said that a complaint could be taken or posted to the Court. If taken would be best, but not essential, to make an appointment with one of the legal advisers in advance. The complaint should include supporting evidence and the fee should be attached as a cheque made payable to the “Clerk to the Justices”. It could be signed by a Magistrate or a Clerk to the Justices.
27th April 2010 I rang again as I noticed that the £200 had not been taken from my bank account. Also I still had not received anything from the Court by post. A Court officer said she would look into it.
7th May 2010 £200 showed up on my bank statement.
12th May 2010 Having heard nothing back from the Court and still not having received any documentation I wrote an e-mail of complaint to Her Majesty’s Courts Service. I complained about the problems experienced at Wycombe Magistrates Court and said:
I would like to know what actions a Magistrates’ Court should take in dealing with a “Complaint for a Litter Abatement Order” pursuant to S 91(6) of the Environmental Protection Act. I am not asking for legal advice but for the procedures that a properly run Court should adopt. This will help others who may take similar action in the future.
14th May 2010 Two days later a copy of a summons addressed to the Secretary of State For Transport dated 22nd April 2010 was posted to me. The date of 14th May is taken from the post mark as there was no accompanying letter..
24th May 2010 I received a reply to my complaint to Her Majesty’s Courts Service. The matter had been forwarded it to Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Thames Valley area Director’s Office.
7th June 2010 The case was heard at the Wycombe & Beaconsfield Magistrates Court. The Court Usher and the Clerk of the Court were most helpful. The outcome was to my advantage and costs were awarded aganst the Sec Of State for Transport. I was never subsequently sent any paperwork from the court confirming what had been decided.
14th June 2010 I was sent a letter from the Deputy Justices Clerk of Wycombe & Beaconsfield Magistrates Court. My e-mail complaining about her court had been sent to her to deal with!!! She apologised and said they would be “analysing their systems with a view to formatting and improving how we manage such applications..” Nothing was said in answer to my question about “.. what actions a Magistrates’ Court should take in dealing with a “Complaint for a Litter Abatement Order”
4th July 2010 I e-mailed her asking about the procedures to be followed e.g. how many copies of the complaint would be required etc
14th July 2010 She replied by post saying she is not in a position to provide me with legal advice, anyone wishing to commence such proceedings should write to the relevant Court and ask for information.
14th July 2010 I wrote to my MP Nick Hurd to complain about the way my complaint of 12th May had been dealt with and the Court Service to provide me with guidance on their procedures.
26th July 2010 I wrote to the Deputy Justices Clerk of Wycombe Magistrates Court saying “I am considering applying to your court once again for a litter abatement order pursuant to section 91(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Could you please let me know the relevant practices and procedures of the court to enable me to prepare, submit and pursue my complaint”.
29th July 2010 She replied saying “I am not able to deal with this matter at the moment; I will do so as soon as I can. I think you are familiar with the procedures and fees chargeable having just completed one application in this Court? Is there anything particular that you are not sure about?
29th July 2010 I wrote again to her saying “ When do you think you will be able to deal with the matter raised in my e-mail of 26th July? I am only familiar with what happened last time but that was, if you don’t mind me saying, somewhat confused – at least for me. I seemed to be constantly on the phone getting things progressed. I want to avoid that this time by understanding the correct procedures and getting it right from the word go. I was hoping that after your meeting with staff mentioned in your letter of 14th June you would have now analysed your systems and formatted the way you manage these applications to the point of producing a guide for applicants. There are lots of things I am not sure about. They are listed in my e-mail to you of 4th July”.
24th August 2010 I wrote asking for the promised summary of procedures.
27th August 2010 The Deputy Justices Clerk replied saying “no promise had been made to provide a summary of procedures. It would not be in my remit to do so”.