Friday, 8 May 2009

Trufax -v- Wandsworth Council


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You'll remember that at the end of March I announced I couldn't write about the court claim against Wandsworth for the time being? Well, I can now.

It was shortly before that post that I received two letters from Ashfords Solicitors. The first invited me to discontinue proceedings against Wandsworth and told me that, either way, they'd go after me for their costs, and use their letter as "evidence of [my] unreasonableness". (Huh?)

The second letter was a Part 36 CPR offer. CPR is short for Civil Procedure Rules; they apply to civil court claims. You can find Part 36 here. As you can see, it's all about offers to settle ("out of court" so to speak) and the consequences if the other party refuses the offer, one of which is that a refusal may expose you to the other party's legal costs, if, ultimately, the judgment is not more advantageous than the offer, or even if it is "at least as advantageous" as the offer. 

So, in effect, this was another way to threaten me with costs. It meant that if I refused the offer put forward, I would have to be damn sure I'd do better in court, or I could end up with a massive legal bill for Ashford's services. 

They offered to pay me £125, but here's the twist - they also wanted me to delete "any reference to the Council, its agents or employees and this firm [i.e. Ashfords]" from my blog, and agree that I would "not refer to this matter or to the terms of any settlement in any publicly available document or electronic medium [i.e. newspapers, my blog]".

In short, they were trying to buy my silence for £125, and scare me into accepting for fear of the possible cost consequences. However, my instinct was not to take this lying down - firstly, I had the huge advantage of knowing the truth and being able to prove at least some of it with hard evidence (in a court which judged only on a balance of probabilities), and secondly, how dare they try to suppress criticism of a public body. 

So, in the spirit of some outrage, and feeling a bit like this was turning into the Winslow Boy, I did some research. It took me a couple of weeks to get to the bottom of it, but eventually I discovered CPR Rule 27.2, which states that Part 36 does not apply to the small claims track (the track to which it was almost certain that my claim would be allocated, as it fell entirely within its scope according to CPR). In addition, Rule 38.6 (regarding Discontinuance and liability for costs) didn't apply to the small claims track either.  Therefore, Ashfords' threats were empty, or as good as.

I can only assume that Ashfords' lack of experience in the small claims track meant that they were ignorant of the special rules which apply. I was quite tempted to go ahead with the claim, but however gratifying it would have been to expose both Ashfords and Ms Parris to the judge's opinion of their conduct, the law should not be treated as a point-scoring exercise, and really all I wanted was the money promised to me, so I took the reasonable approach, and made them a counter offer, pointing out that Part 36 does not apply to the small claims track. My offer was the same as theirs - £125 - but excluding the gagging provisions.

A few days later, Ashfords accepted on behalf of their client. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for the conversation between Ashfords and Wandsworth, where Ashfords presumably had to admit they'd fucked up with the Part 36 offer.

I have the cheque for £125. It's only taken two and half years to get the money. Ashford's bill for this must be at least £500, probably more like £1,000, not to mention the cost of the man hours put in by Mr Crawley in his endeavours not to pay me the refund promised by Ms Parris. Epic misuse of public funds. 




7 comments:

  1. Hey well done - shame our council tax has to pay for this kind of nonsense (I live in Wandsworth too)

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  2. congratulations

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  3. Bravo T

    Will you be investing your spoils in something from Folksy?

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  4. Well done! One thing your case highlights prefectly is how reliant councils are on most residents ignorance of the law and procedures. Remember that councils are made up of various local authority trading companies and it is these companies interests they put first and not the residents they are supposed to be serving.

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  5. Does this mean it's all over?

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  6. Who cares about any of this. Can't believe you didn't do all the necessary checks beforehand. Do you not think are to blame too in all of this, and what does any of this achieve anyway, other the venting your sad old spleen

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  7. Lol ^ Might as well say it's from Mr Crawley himself.

    Just stumbled across this blog now, I feel both enraged but overwhelmingly pleased for your important, albeit it small, victory.

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