5 July 2013

David v Goliath (Barnet CPZ Judicial review)

A report on the proceedings at the judicial review of the CPZ charges by Peter (added to by Mr Mustard for the final 97 minutes of proceedings), one of the supporters who has been there since the very first meeting in the lounge, kitchen, dining room, hall of a very full house in Summerlee Avenue back in 2011.

David v Goliath

Court 22 is in the basement
Of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand,
We push past the Lewisham hospital placards
And wish them luck. We have our Whittington battle to come.

David looks cool. He fired the first slingshots
Over two years ago, but none have dented
The Barnet council Goliath, imperturbable
As our stones rattled off his hide.

Now it’ll be single combat in front of their suited armies.
And a judge. Mrs Justice Lang DBE.
Dark hair and suit, glasses,
Enlivened by a pair of crimson ribbons,
Enthroned beneath a gilded lion and unicorn.

Our barrister mumbles and bumbles,
As the judge leafs through her bundles
Searching for the two or three crucial pages
Wherein lies the kernel of the case.

Can they deliberately raise the parking charge
To create a surplus to use elsewhere?
That's the stone in David's sling.
The council says times is tough,
Capped government funding forced us.
June 09's proposal for modest increases
Was preempted the following year
By a cunning plan, a massive increase,
A coach and horses stampeding through the Act.

We wander to and fro through documents and sub-paragraphs
As the air grows heavy.
We see how the words blah blah entered the language.
Where's the one-page management summary
We used to have to give our Boards?
It's a different world in here.

(Whose hair goes into those wigs?)

Yes, I'm losing my way, as the barrister
Meanders down the back roads of the case,
Where signposts have gone missing,
And the judge struggles to follow
Its twists and turns in a labyrinth of hedges,
Which hide our destination from view.

Do they give barristers a course in document navigation?
Or even persuasion skills?
He drones on, his face buried in his bundles,
Leaving the judge struggling
To keep his tail-lights in view,
While David, eyes glued to his satnav,
Scuttles forward to keep him on track.

Two hours have gone. We're into emails:
Councillor Coleman's blunt assertions
That there is no other way
To plug our pothole-pitted roads,
And the hole in the Council's funds,
Without our money. David demurs.
Coleman cuffs him aside.
So here we are.

1984. That was the year of the Act.
Ominous, you might think.

It's approaching one o'clock
When the judge begins to see for herself
The road opening out in front of her,
And, tired of the dawdling Morris Minor
With the barrister gripping its wheel,
Speeds past him. Goaded, at last
He finds the accelerator pedal, and -

And we find a lay by, and stop for lunch.

We reconvene, and turn to case law.
(What page are you on? She asks for the tenth time.)
It seems at first to buttress our case. But...

But we slow. There's a hold-up.
A paragraph in an earlier judgment
Is not entirely clear. It blocks our route.
It concerns whether a Council
Is entitled to set initial charges
Deliberately high to gain a surplus,
And if so what can it use it on?
Will there be a Catch 22 in Court 22?

The cars slow to a crawl, and stop.
The air fills with exhaust fumes.
I don't know about them,
But exhaustion is filling my vehicle.
We bypass this block,
Only to find another para in the way.
I think I'm going to pass out…

I pass out of the Court, and stumble into the Strand,
Where the traffic too is snarled up.

The barrister didn't snarl of course
but he did crawl through his skeleton argument
although best when he ad-libbed
and then the traffic turns and the council barrister
who has been a passenger all day awaiting his turn at the wheel
gets in the driving seat and tries to turn the judge around

He booms out his argument
he is speeding through his 12 points
trying to get David disqualified
acting insouciantly as if the council are behaving perfectly properly
there are acts dropped everywhere
S45(2)(b) of this Act
S46(1) of it
S55 of course
and S122 which is troubling the judge

and then leaving Barnet for a moment we are suddenly in Wednesbury
Wednesbury arrives in almost every case as a test of unreasonableness
how can we not be in Wednesbury unreasonable territory
it was Brian's decision after all
except everyone agrees we aren't

the judge wasn't an idle passenger
nor was she deaf to the arguments
she had read her papers & remembered the facts
she rapped on the window between her and the driver
"the council had an ulterior motive", she said
"This was evidence of it"
thus hinting she had no plans to tear up David's licence to park

the council barrister tried to nudge the car forward through the crossroads
the judge was having none of it
you are driving here to ensure the expeditious, safe movement of traffic etc
not to simply turn up the meter
because you need new furniture at home
(traffic lights were the example given but not many homes have those)
Are your charges legitimate

The best the barrister could do
when caught driving the wrong way down a one way street
with charges heading to infinity and beyond was a
"could be"

and the barrister tried to nudge his car forward
his wallet was empty
can we go full belt down council tax street
or via SPA alley
or a little of both?

the judge was banging (in a ladylike manner)
on the window again
was raising revenue the only consideration?
and then the dreaded words were uttered
Equality Impact Assessment
no-one wanted to spend too long in that corner of town

and then for a while the car went round in circles
whilst previous judgments were consulted like maps
probably of Birmingham as we went forwards and back without getting to the destination
or like Mr Mustard last week
unable to find his hotel in Dijon which he could see
but couldn't easily get to it as there were too many
one way streets and blind alleys

and then the barrister was showing the judge some
miscellaneous sites of interest
and one was a citing of Brian Coleman
whose emails will come back to bite the council
on the bottom, possibly
and let us move the vehicle swiftly on
as terrible images form in the rear view mirror

and with the clock on the dash showing 4.09
the council barrister took his hands off the wheel
satisfied with his day's work
neither Rumpole nor Rumpled
and he had earnt many times more than the
average professional driver would make that day

the rules of court allow the claimant to drive first
and he drives for hours in the desired direction
then the defendant gets to try and turn the car around
or sometimes to drive it off a cliff or into the buffers
and after his time at the wheel
whatever is left that is drivable
is salvaged and headed to the desired target
and at any time the light touch of the judge
can be found on the wheel
checking the direction of travel is just
or that the driver knows where he is headed

and so David's driver had 21 minutes in which
to reach his target
although whether he got there or not
will only be known when the judge decides if
the target was the correct one to which she wanted to be taken.

and so the vehicle continued on its journey
with the driver, like an opinionated taxi driver
saying that the last man to share his cab
had gone completely the wrong way
he had no knowledge at all
just a barrack room lawyer really
although he was impeccably polite
when insulting his legal knowledge

and so the end of the journey was reached
would the judge pay the fare
she hadn't made her mind up
but S122 was troubling her
and she had to decide what was permissible as a fare?
£1 or £4?; £40 or £100?

as soon as judgment is delivered you will hear about it on here.

Thank you to Peter for keeping much better notes than the 10 pages of notes of legal argument that Mr Mustard scribbled down. Thank you also to David Attfield for putting his neck on the block and risking £50,000 of his own money (largely raised by supporters and we will raise more if needs be) who told David that he had saved Mr Mustard from having to start this battle in 2011 and that, as a qualified lawyer, he had done a much better job than Mr M. would have done and Mr M. is in enough other battles already.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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