Monday, July 10, 2017
Quentin sets legal precedent at the High Court in Planning Enforcement Guilty Plea hearing
Quentin represented Mr O and Mrs K at the high Court in London in a case where they were accused of breaching the terms of a planning enforcement notice contrary to s179 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The defendants had pleaded Guilty and wanted to vacate their plea. Prior to their contacting Quentin their previous legal advisers had told them they had no prospect of successfully changing their plea.
Quentin analysed their case and discovered that there was a material problem with the procedure that had been followed at the guilty plea hearing in the Magistrates Court. As a result, Quentin made an application to the Southwark Crown Court for the proceedings in the Magistrates Court to be declared a nullity and for the plea process to be carried out afresh thereby nullifying their guilty pleas. At the hearing at Southwark Crown Court His Honour Judge Grieve QC agreed with Quentin’s arguments and the application was successful.
The prosecution (Westminster City Council) were not happy with the decision and proceeded to challenge the Judge’s decision by an appeal to the High Court on a point of law by way of an ‘Appeal by Case Stated’.
The matter was heard at the High Court before Lord Justice Goss. Following complex legal argument, the High Court ruled in favour of Quentin’s clients. The case was remitted to the Magistrates Court for the plea procedure to be redone due to the procedural error spotted by Quentin. Lord Justice Goss stated that this was a matter of legal principle which should be borne in mind by Magistrates Courts; he stated that:
“…the present case stands as a reminder that guilty pleas in the magistrates' court must be indicated or entered by defendants personally. All concerned should take care to ensure that this is the case; a failure to do so can (as has been seen here) give rise to an unnecessary waste of time and money. The importance of maintaining a suitable record is likewise apparent.”
The full decision can be found reported at Westminster City Council v Owadally and Another  EWHC 1902 (Admin).
As a result of Quentin’s representation the matter was therefore remitted to the City of Westminster Magistrates Court where the defendants indicated Not Guilty pleas and elected for the matter to be sent to the Southwark Crown Court for trial.
If you face planning enforcement proceedings or wish to have a guilty plea vacated you will require specialist legal representation. Quentin Hunt is a specialist in both these areas and relishes a legal challenge. You may contact Quentin for a no free obligation conversation about your case.