On Friday 8 June 2018, Garnham J allowed an appeal by way of case stated in respect of a decision of a District Judge to stay a planning prosecution as an abuse of process. Ceredigion County Council had brought a prosecution against four Defendants for failing to comply with three enforcement notices requiring removal of habitable structures within a forest, and the cessation of residential use.
District Judge Parsons, sitting in Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court, had refused to allow the prosecution to proceed on the basis of oral advice which he found as a matter of fact had been given by the Council’s Planning Officer to the Defendants, to the effect that if they submitted a planning application the whole lot would go away. He found that in reliance on this advice they had lost their right to appeal the enforcement notices.
Garnham J found that, although the Defendants were substantially prejudiced having lost their right to appeal in reliance on the advice, it was not such as to amount to an unequivocal undertaking that they would not be prosecuted should they fail to comply with the notices. Furthermore, the continuation of the prosecution in such circumstances would not amount to an affront to justice such as could legitimately be treated as an abuse of process. The prosecution has now been remitted back to the Magistrates’ Court for retrial.
Annabel Graham Paul represented the successful appellant, Ceredigion County Council. The judgment is ex tempore. Please do get in touch with Annabel if you would like any further details.