EX PARTE PYGMOSTIN BC; OR IS THE LEGAL AID AGENCY LIABLE?

Mossbound County Court, Court 7

It is a sullen afternoon in the county court sitting in Mossbound. Court 7 is in session, with a judge and an elderly man across the bench and bar. Mossbound’s is a new court and has absorbed and replaced four smaller courts in a largely rural area. First there was Munbyside court, a gruff grey little building, which has now re-opened as a Pound-saver. Alsatia County Court served a group of often lawless and inbred northern people. They are descended from Lorrainians who fled there from the 30 Years’ War. Their settlement was only named Alsatia early in the eighteenth century. The de-commissioned court building is now being squatted by unemployed criminal barristers and a number of their clients.

Pygmostin, is a small town whose occupants are famed throughout the county for their bright brash braces. Theirs is the only remaining court. It has been renamed Mossbound Combined Holistic and Civil Non-online Court Centre (MCHCNOCC: known by local lawyers as ‘Much Knock’). The local practice directions of its progressive circuit judge, run already to three alphabets and a fourth run though the alphabet, already at P (and none approved by the Lord Chief Justice) The judge does not permit I or (i) to be used (for which he has been commended by the Lord Chancellor personally). There are 90 practice directions of which 53 apply to family cases. Riderbound, a rambling northern town of mostly childless horse enthusiasts, makes up the fourth town. Its court building house a mediator’s co-operative. The co-operative is affiliated to a non-court dispute resolution service whose management committee is chaired by the progressive judge.

Another civil claim

David Jones (A) left home on public transport two days ago to travel to Mossbound in time for his appointment with the judge in Court 7 (court staff refused to re-list the case at 2.00 pm which would have saved Mr Jones one of his two overnight stays). In 2007/8 he wanted completely to rebuild and re-plant his back garden, which suffered from subsidence. He contracted with Rolling Stone Speedibild (B), one of the better known builders in Alsatia, to do the work. (He lives an 11mile walk from a bus line into Pygmostin). A has not paid B. B has sued A in the Mossbound court.

Both parties – ‘very sensibly’, says the judge – have agreed that Pygmostin Borough Council (‘PBC’) (C) should pay for Mr Jones’s garden. The judge has considered the draft order put up by A, has signed it an looked as though to release A. He thought he should say a few words: ‘No one is here from the council to say why the rate-payers shouldn’t pay; though I’ve seen an email which says that, absent rules, they have no power to pay. I disagree. I shall be robust. I’m sure they’ll find a good reason’ – he realised he did not know the opposite of ‘absent’ – ‘why it’s perfectly possible to pay. It’s an excellent idea. B can’t be expected to pay these bills. He is outwith much in his bank account….

‘So, let’s see your draft order again, Mr Jones: £38,755 with costs of £13,346 and interest at 11.75% from the date of the bill (7 years ago). That’s what you’ve agree the council will pay. Pygmostyn BC will therefore pay £93,040, payable in 28 days after the town clerk,… er, is that who it is? – after he or she receives my order.’

And will the Legal Aid Agency pay?

I’m not at all sure the law works in the way that the judge in Pygmostin court ordered. The translators in Suffolk County Council v The Mother and ors (reported as Re R (translation of documents in proceedings)) [2015] EWFC B112 HHJ Roberts, Family Court sitting at Chelmsford are in the same position as A. They have done the work. They must be paid. The non-English speaking parents (whose solicitors wanted to be able to pay for documents to be translated) are clear (they get no capital letter here). In contract terms it is their solicitors who are in the position of B and will therefore have to pay the translator’s bill. The article at http://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/08/25/lost-in-translation/#comment-11798, and HHJ Lynne Robert say that I am wrong.

Legal Aid Agency (‘LAA’) is C. Like A, neither the LAA nor the council can –m in law and as far as I can see – be made subject to an effective order that they should bay. There is no obvious reason why LAA has to pay on HHJ Lynne Roberts’s order? If a judge’s order has no foundation, in law, then – as for most of us who try to walk on water – it sinks. If I were acting for the lawyers for the parents, I would not advise the solicitors to issue a civil claim against LAA if they don’t pay. The LAA defence to the claim is easy to predict, starting with LASPOA 2012, which – with its supporting regs – did not feature expressly in the judges’ reasoning (and see http://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/care-proceedings-bundles-a-duty-to-pay#.VdxhTPmqqko).

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