You are on page 1of 12

IN THE FIRST-TIER TRIBUNAL APPEAL: EA/2017/0019

GENERAL REGULATORY CHAMBER


(INFORMATION RIGHTS)

BETWEEN:

Appellant
and

THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER


Respondent

EXHIBIT 8
Four year fiasco
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE CO Ref: CO/ /2017
QUEENS BENCH DIVISION
ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

BETWEEN:

Appellant
and

NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL


Respondent

CHRONOLOGY

1. The billing authority (the Respondent) sent a Council Tax reminder dated 12.9.12
in respect of a missed instalment which was due on 1.9.12. It warned that
instalments would be withdrawn if the account not brought up to date, and if
following that the balance was not paid immediately, a summons would be issued
(incurring costs) without further notice.

2. Neither demand was met so on 17.10.12 a summons was served on the Appellant to
appear before the Magistrates Court on 2.11.12 to answer the said complaint. It was
stated alternatively that all further proceedings would be stopped if the amount
outstanding including summons costs was paid before the date of the hearing.

3. Payment was made on 17.10.12 which included the outstanding Council Tax liability
and an amount in respect of reasonable costs incurred (albeit a lesser sum than was
stated on the summons as the costs element). The Respondent was notified by letter
under cover of an email and sought whether it would proceed to obtain a court order
to enable enforcement of the element of costs which the council may have
considered was unpaid.
4. On 17.10.12 the Respondent acknowledge receipt of the letter, and advised that it
had been forwarded to its Court Enforcement Officers to deal with. There was no
further response in relation to the issues raised so assumed it would proceed to
obtain a liability order.

5. On 26.10.12 the Magistrates Court was notified that the liability had been settled
and advised that unless the application for a liability order was withdrawn the
complaint would be defended at the hearing of 2.11.12. A summary accompanied the
letter to support several documents asserting that the sum sought by the Respondent
was an unreasonable claim for costs.

6. On 28.10.12 an assessment of costs incurred in pursuance of the defence was


submitted to the Magistrates Court.

7. The complaint was heard in the Magistrates Court on 2.11.12 where the bench
granted a liability order in respect of the costs which the Respondent claimed were
incurred.

8. On 5.11.12 the Magistrates Court was contacted by email expressing the wish to
appeal the courts decision to grant a liability order and request to have details
forwarded of the relevant person to correspond with on the matter.

9. The court responded in a letter dated 6.11.12 advising that a Liability Order could
only be challenged by an appeal to the High Court by way of either a case stated on
a point of law or a judicial review and strongly suggested taking legal advice.

10. On 16.11.12 the court was contacted by email in regards appealing by way of a case
stated and to advise that seeking legal advice was not viable because of
unemployment and having no entitlement to benefit.

11. The court responded by email on 19.11.12 and clarified some points raised and
advised that in certain circumstances it is possible to apply for fee remission.

12. On 20.11.12 the court was contacted by email querying the relevant Criminal
Procedure Rules and again on the 21.11.12 to obtain particulars of the Liability
2
Order hearing as were required to complete the prescribed form to state a case.

13. The court responded in two separate emails on 21.11.12. The first advised it could
not provide assistance with the appeal and the second, advising that case references
were not allocated in Council Tax cases.

14. On 22.11.12 the application to state a case for an appeal to the high court was served
on both parties, that is, the Respondent and Magistrates' Court, within the time limits
laid out in the Criminal Procedure Rules.

15. The Deputy Justices Clerk acknowledged receipt of the application in a letter dated
22.11.12 and advised that once the documentation had been considered further
contact would be made.

16. There was no communication and on 28.12.12 an attempt to contact the Deputy
Justices Clerk was made by email, however, a 'delivery failure' notice was
generated and returned. An attempt was made under advice to contact the Justices'
Clerk for Humber & South Yorkshire but without a response. A further attempt to
make contact on 10.1.13 was also unsuccessful.

17. The court made contact on 14.1.13 where it transpired that the Deputy Justices'
Clerk who had been dealing with the appeal had left HMCTS at the end of 2012. The
Legal Team Manager stated in his email that he would make enquiries into what was
happening with the application and update as soon as possible.

18. The matter had been put in the hands of the Justices' Clerk for Humber & South
Yorkshire, who in a letter dated 24.1.13 advised that the Justices require
recognizance to be entered into in the sum of 500 and outlined the conditions of
recognizance.

19. The Justices' Clerk was contacted on 6.2.13 by email with the Respondent and
Grimsby Magistrates Courts Legal Team Manager copied in. An attached letter to
the Justices Clerk dated 5.2.13 highlighted that the recognizance should be set at a
level which does not deny a person access to justice and that the proposed sum
effectively would. Alternative remedies were suggested, which in the case of the
court, was to set aside the liability order, and for the Respondent, to apply for the
3
order to be quashed.

20. On 8.2.13 the Respondent replied stating it was not prepared to apply to the
Magistrates Court to quash the liability order as it was correctly obtained. This was
disputed in a letter dated 14.2.13, on the grounds that the application should have
ceased when the aggregate of the sum outstanding and an amount equal to the costs
reasonably incurred by the Respondent was paid.

21. The Justices' Clerk was contacted twice by email in February 2013, once on the 19th
and again on the 26th to prompt a response to the letter dated 5.2.13.

22. There was no communication from the Justices Clerk and on 23.3.13 the
Administrative Court Office was contacted by letter to make preliminary enquiries
about a mandatory order requiring the Justices to state a case for an appeal to the
High Court.

23. The Justices' Clerk was again contacted by email on 27.3.13 to prompt a response to
the letter dated 5.2.13, but the concerns raised regarding the recognizance were
never addressed.

24. A Pre-Action letter dated 29.4.13 was sent to the Justices Clerk advising that it was
intended that an application would be made for permission to bring judicial review
proceedings for a mandatory order requiring the Justices to state a case.

25. The application for permission to bring judicial review proceedings was submitted
on 31.5.13 as a consequence of there being no response from the Justices Clerk in
relation to the 5.2.13 and 29.4.13 letters. Similarly, there had been no response from
the Respondent to the 14.2.13 letter.

26. Sealed copies of the judicial review application (seal date 12.6.13) were received on
17.6.13, along with directions to proceed with the claim.

27. On 18.6.13, sealed copies of the judicial review claim forms and accompanying
documents were served on the defendant and interested parties in accordance with
the relevant Civil Procedure Rules. Certificate of Service was lodged in the
Administrative Court on 19.6.13.

4
28. Confirmation received (re-delivered letter signed for 16.7.13) that the Magistrates'
Court had lodged the Acknowledgement of Service (dated 8.7.13) with the
Administrative Court (judicial review claim), in which the defendant Court gave an
undertaking that it would serve the draft case within fourteen days of the date of the
Acknowledgement of Service. It was revealed too that the question of the
appropriateness of the recognizance and/or the amount could have been considered
by the court had an arrangement been made to appear before the defendant court to
enter into a recognizance.

29. A letter sent by the Respondent dated 19.7.13 advised that the disputed court costs
were suspended, and dependent on the outcome of the proceedings, would either be
withdrawn or remain outstanding with the council.

30. The draft case, together with a statement of the delay for its production, both dated
22.7.13, were received on 30.7.13. These were accompanied with a covering letter
dated 24.7.13, advising that any written representations upon its content would
require submitting within 21 days from receipt of the draft case, in accordance with
rule 77(2) of the Magistrates' Courts Rules 1981.

31. On 19.8.13, representations upon the content of the draft case were served together
with letter advising that the Court had (from the latest day on which representations
may be made) 21 days to state and sign the case in accordance with rule 78 of the
Magistrates' Courts Rules 1981. At the same time, a copy was served on the
Respondent.

32. An order from the High Court in the matter of the application for judicial review was
received on 6.9.13. The administrative court required updating with what had
happened after the defendant court undertook to serve a draft of a Case stated within
14 days of the Acknowledgement of service. A reply was sent the same day and
copies sent to the interested parties stating that the draft Case had been served and
representations made on the draft case.

33. On 9.9.13, the Respondent served representations on the Appellant and Magistrates
court expressing that it fully supported HMCTS submission (presumably the draft
case).
5
34. The administrative court wrote on 12.11.13 proposing that the judicial review claim
be withdrawn because there no longer appeared a need for further action on the part
of the High Court as the draft Case had been served. On 20.11.13, the administrative
court was notified of the wish to withdraw the judicial review claim.

35. The Justices' Clerk was contacted by letter under cover of email on 10.1.14
enquiring into why it was that the justices had not served the Case in accordance
with the relevant rules (on or before 10.9.13) and why there had been no
acknowledgement of the representations made upon the content of the draft case.

36. On second guessing why the case had not been delivered, it was assumed that the
judicial review claim only prompted the court to give an undertaking to serve the
draft case but not the final case until recognizance had been agreed. The Justices'
Clerk was therefore contacted again by letter under cover of an email on 13.2.14 to
arrange a recognizance hearing in order that the appropriateness and/or the amount
may be considered and agreed.

37. On 3.3.14, Doncaster Magistrates Court was contacted by phone, having received
no reply from the Justices Clerk in the matter of the recognizance. The Justices
Clerk's assistant (Legal Admin Team Leader) took the call who confirmed that a
message would be left for the Justices Clerk to make contact that day.

38. On the morning of 5.3.14, having still no contact, the Court was called again and a
team member from the Judicial Support Unit took the call who ensured a message
would reach the Justices Clerk who was due in later. A second call was made on the
afternoon of 5.3.14 where a different member of the Judicial Support Unit took the
call and confirmed that the message had been passed on but the Clerk was again not
at the premises so unavailable.

39. The Clerk to Justices made contact on 6.3.14, stating in an email that either that day
or the following the position regarding the case (advising on the next steps) would
be set out and communicated in writing. Despite this undertaking, and two further
calls to the court on 19 and 28 March 2014, there was never any such
communication sent.

6
40. The Justices' Clerk was contacted by letter under cover of an email on 22.4.14
requesting the production of a Certificate of refusal to state a case under section
111(5) of the Magistrates Court's Act 1980. Neither a Certificate of refusal to state a
case was provided nor was a reply to the communication received.

41. The Justices' Clerk was contacted by email on 9.7.14 to enquire into whether Her
Majestys Courts and Tribunals Service had any arrangements in place to restrict the
Appellants contact with Humber and South Yorkshire, and if so in what way. There
was never a reply and to date the query remains unanswered.

42. On 2.9.14 a judicial complaint was submitted to the relevant Advisory Committee
(the AC). The events outlined up to paras 41 in this Chronology was attached
highlighting the difficulty the Appellant was encountering progressing the case.
Neither an acknowledgement nor an outcome was received in relation to the
complaint. It is understood that the Secretary to the AC for the Humber to whom
the complaint was addressed is also the Justices Clerk involved in the present
case.

43. On 14.5.15 an enquiry was made with the Judicial Office as an alternative to
contacting the AC in the hope of establishing why the complaint had not been
acknowledged. However, there was no advantage, as the Judicial Office merely
forwarded the email to the AC Secretary, after which no response was received.

44. On 25.6.15 concerns were raised with the Head of the Judicial Conduct
Investigations Office (JCIO) who responded on 29.6.15 stating that she had
contacted the Committee Secretary in the hope she would make contact directly. It
was suggested complaining to the Judicial Appointment and Conduct Ombudsman
(JACO) if the handling of the complaint remained unsatisfactory.

45. A response was not received from the AC Secretary and so JACO was contacted
expressing the wish to escalate a complaint, first on 8.8.15 and again on the 19.8.15
after receiving no acknowledgement.

46. JACO finally replied in a letter dated 14.12.15 in which an apology was given for
the 4 month delay in responding. The Ombudsmans remit was also set out, some of
which permitted him to consider the delay in investigating the AC
7
complaint submitted more than a year earlier on 2.9.14.

47. On 18.12.15 permission was given to JACOs Office to disclose the complaint and
correspondence to the AC and confirmed that the AC had not responded to any
correspondence about the matter and the case still unresolved requesting therefore
that the Ombudsman consider the process by which the AC handled the matter so
far. JACOs Office stated in an email sent on 22.12.15 that the complaint file would
be requested from the AC and an update given after it had been received and
considered.

48. JACO made contact on 23.2.16 informing the Appellant that the complaint file had
been obtained from the AC and apologised for the delay that was down to the
significant amount of time obtaining it. It transpired that the AC had three letters on
file that were sent to the Appellant in response to his correspondence to them (AC),
Judicial Office and JCIO. Though the Appellant did not receive the letters, copies
were attached to JACOs 23.2.16 email.

49. The first undelivered letter dated 16.9.14 was in response to the Judicial complaint
of 2.9.14 (see above para 42) dismissing the complaint as it did not raise a question
of misconduct. It further stated that a certificate of refusal to state a case was not
issued by the Justices because they did state a case for the consideration of the
Administrative Court and the final case has been sent to the Appellant. The
Appellant received neither the letter nor the final case referred to in that letter.
Moreover, there was no copy of the case stated sent by JACO presumably because
the complaint file obtained from the AC did not contain the document.

50. The second and third undelivered letters were in connection with the Judicial Office
and then JCIO prompting a response from the AC (see above paras 43 & 44 this
Annex) and were dated 29.5.15 and 6.7.15 respectively. Both copies state: This
matter was responded to by the Humber Advisory Committee on 16 September 2014
and I enclose herewith a further copy of that reply. The Appellant received neither
of these letters, consequently the 16.9.14 failed to be delivered on three occasions.

51. On 25.2.16 the Appellant contacted the Justices' Clerk by email advising he had not
received and was unaware of the letters sent, dated 16.9.14, 29.5.15, 6.7.15 and the

8
final case stated referred to in the 16.9.14 letter. It was also advised that JACO had
sent copies of the three letters, though not one of the case stated, and would therefore
like that sent in order that the application to the High Court may be proceeded with.

52. Having received no reply or acknowledgement from the Justices Clerk in the matter
of the 25.2.16 email the Appellant contacted the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) on
13.3.16. The MoJ responded on 13.4.16 with a message saying that the Justices'
Clerk apologised for the delay in responding and for not arranging for an update that
she was dealing with the email. It was confirmed that the correspondence would be
responded to by no later than 15.4.16 after reviewing the file to give full
consideration to the matter raised.

53. Having received no reply the Appellant raised concerns with HMCTS customer
complaints on 25.6.16 which was referred to the Justices Clerk. The complaint
predominantly surrounded the difficulty in obtaining the final signed case stated.

54. HMCTS was prompted on 17.11.16 after still having received no response to the
complaint. On 7.12.16, in consultation with the Parliamentary Ombudsman, a
caseworker advised the Appellant to write to HMCTS allowing it reasonable
opportunity to reply, after which if there was no response to request that his MP
contact the Ombudsman to intervene.

55. On 8.12.16, the Appellant wrote to HMCTS formally asking to be given a date by
which he could expect the outcome to the complaint. Having received no response
he wrote on 20.12.16 to his MP, Melanie Onn, to ask that the Parliamentary
Ombudsman intervene.

56. HMCTS replied on 3.1.17 revealing 7 more letters (copies were attached) that had
been sent which the Appellant did not receive; not just in respect of the HMCTS
complaint but some dating to before the complaint of 2.9.14 to the AC. It transpired
that the Justices Clerk had posted a response to the complaint on 22.7.16. Another
letter posted 28.11.16 was in response to the Appellants email dated 17.11.16 (see
above para 54) with a copy enclosed of the Justices Clerks letter to the Appellant
dated 22.7.16.

9
57. The earliest undelivered item of post went back to 19.12.13 a letter acknowledging
receipt of the Appellants representations (19.8.13) upon the draft case (see above
para 31) with the final case stated enclosed. The letter also informed that the
Respondent had sought an extension (which was granted) to the time in which they
may submit representations on the draft case as it was stated that the draft case had
not been received. The position regarding proceedings (advising on the next steps)
was set out i.e., that the case must be lodged within 10 days of receiving it etc., and
it requested that the Appellant acknowledge receipt of the correspondence and
enclosure.

58. The next letter in order of undelivered post was dated 20.2.14 which acknowledged
receipt of the Appellants letter (13.2.14) seeking arrangement of a recognizance
hearing (see above para 36). The letter informed that the Court had agreed to state a
case which was sent on 19.12.13 and recognizance was no longer required. A further
copy of the case was enclosed and the position reiterated regarding the next steps if
the Appellant wished to pursue the appeal.

59. The next undelivered item was dated 1.5.14 which acknowledged receipt of the
Appellants letter (22.4.14) requesting the production of a Certificate of refusal to
state a case (see above para 40). The letter informed that the Court had already stated
a case for the opinion of the High Court which was sent to the Appellant under cover
of correspondence dated 19.12.13 and 20.2.14 therefore the Court would not be
issuing a certificate of refusal to state a case. A further copy of the case was enclosed
and the position reiterated regarding the next steps to pursue the appeal.

60. The last item of undelivered post (relevant to the appeal) was dated 15.4.16. The
letter was a reply to the Appellants email (25.2.16) advising the Justices' Clerk he
had not received and was unaware of the letters obtained by JACO (see above paras
51-53). The Justices' Clerks letter informed that the Court originally issued the final
case under cover of correspondence dated 19.12.13, and subsequently on 20.2.14
and 1.5.14. The number of attempts to send the correspondence and that none had
been returned to their office as undelivered was emphasised. The position regarding
the next steps to pursue the appeal was reiterated and requested again that the
Appellant acknowledge receipt of the correspondence and enclosure.

10
61. On 5.1.17 the Appellant contacted HMCTS by email with the Justices' Clerk and the
Respondent copied in to confirm that none of the letters had been delivered and were
seen for the first time upon being sent copies on 3.1.17. The preference was stated
for future correspondence to be sent by email and asked that a signed copy of the
final case was sent to enable lodging the application with the Administrative Office
(the copy held was unsigned and marked file copy).

62. The Court confirmed that the email request of 5.1.17 had been received and an
undertaking given to provide the signed final case as requested by 13.1.17. An
electronic copy of the signed final case was served under cover of an email on
16.1.17.

11