Planning Enforcement prosecution stayed as an abuse of process by Crown Court, full defence costs awarded.
Mr AE was prosecuted by Ealing Borough Council for breach of a planning enforcement notice under section 172 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1997. He instructed Quentin Hunt, a specialist Planning Enforcement Barrister, to represent his interests.
Mr AE had not complied with the enforcement notice and had been advised by other lawyers that he may have little defence to what is essential a strict liability offence. However, the planning enforcement notice was issued more than 10 years prior to the eventual enforcement action. Quentin took the case over and ascertained that AE would have a good application that the proceedings were an abuse of the process of the Court. He made a detailed application to that effect and submitted a voluminous disclosure request to Ealing Council demanding documentation relevant to the case.
Upon receipt of the disclosure, Quentin found a number of documents that were extremely useful to the defence, including emails that suggested that the Council had considered financial recovery as part of their enforcement motive for a recovery under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. This is prohibited under recent Court of Appeal authority.
Quentin submitted a detailed skeleton argument to the Reading Crown Court alleging that the proceedings were an abuse of the process of the Court. The ‘grounds’ of abuse were delay, legitimate expectation and improper motive.
The abuse of process proceedings took place over 3 days at the Reading Crown Court. Quentin required the prosecution to call a number of witnesses, including the head of the Council Legal Department. The witnesses were subject to extensive cross examination about the investigation underlying the case and the circumstances in which the prosecution was brought. Detailed legal submissions followed.
The ruling of the Crown Court judge was damning to the prosecution. The judge found that the proceedings were an affront to justice and that they amounted to an abuse of the process of the Court. The proceedings were not allowed to continue by the Court and the matter was stayed by the Judge. Quentin’s client was delighted.
Unusually, the Court found that the conduct of the matter was inappropriate to the extent that the Judge made an order for wasted costs against the prosecution. Such an order was made under section 19 of the Prosecution of Offences act 1985 and the Court awarded the Defendant his costs in full.
If you face proceedings for breach of a planning enforcement notice you may require specialist legal advice. Planning enforcement breaches are a criminal offence and are prosecuted in the criminal courts. Specialist criminal Barrister Quentin Hunt is an expert in planning enforcement matters and regularly appears in the Magistrates Court, Crown Court and Court of Appeal, Criminal Division in respect of breach of planning enforcement matters. Quentin has a reputation as a lawyer who will fight for his clients and he is not afraid to take on the authorities to make sure that he gets the best results that he can.
Quentin accepts instructions either through solicitors or directly from members of the public. If you face planning enforcement breach proceedings and require legal representation you may contact Quentin for a confidential, no obligation conversation about your case.