Quentin wins abuse of process application in landmark planning enforcement case

Quentin wins abuse of process application in landmark planning enforcement case

Quentin was briefed by Sanders and co solicitors in respect of the representation of a limited company which was being prosecuted by Brentwood Borough Council prosecution for failure to comply with a planning enforcement notice contrary to s179 Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The planning enforcement notice related to the company’s activity on an industrial estate that was technically classified as green belt land.  The local authority had indicated their intention to pursue the company for a confiscation order upon conviction which would likely have amounted to over a million of pounds.

The local authority prosecution related to breaches of a notice that had been served over a decade prior to the prosecution being commenced. In the meantime, the prosecution had allowed the defendant company’s activities to continue. In fact, the planning position was about to be clarified by the land in question being adopted as ‘employment land’ in the Local Plan of the very authority who sought to prosecute this as a breach of the green belt- Brentwood Borough Council. The defence position was that this absurd state of affairs was an attempt by the prosecution to raise funds via the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 as pre-prosecution correspondence from the prosecution suggested that an order under the POCA would be sought.

At a pre-trial hearing Quentin argued that the proceedings were an abuse of the process of the Court. These submissions were initially rejected by the Judge who found that the application of a statutory procedure such as POCA would not amount to an abuse of process. However, as the trial approached the decisions in in R v The Knightland Foundation [2018] EWCA Crim 1860 and Wokingham Borough Council v Scott and others [2019] EWCA Crim 205 were published and Quentin was able to consider an amount of disclosed material by the prosecution which demonstrated the approach that the prosecution had taken towards the land in previous years. 

As a result, Quentin was able to renew his abuse of process application on the first day of trial. This application was fiercely contested by the prosecution and lasted 6 days, during which time evidence was called on a voir dire application and the prosecution sought to withhold disclosure of material from the defence. At the end of the abuse of process application HHJ Graham QC sitting at the Basildon Crown Court accepted Quentin’s submissions and ruled that the proceedings were indeed an abuse of the process of the Court and stayed the proceedings. Despite initially indicating that they would seek the contest the ruling the prosecution decided not to appeal and the ruling stands and the defendant company was acquitted of all charges. The Court also made an order that the Council pay some of the costs of the defendant company.

Quentin Hunt is a Criminal Barrister who is experienced in Planning Enforcement and POCA cases and has appeared in some of the most serious and high profile of these sorts of cases.

If you find yourself facing investigation or prosecution for matters such as these and wish to speak to an expert in the area you may contact Quentin for a free, no obligation conversation about your case