Why does the British justice system expect the impossible?

Why does the British justice system expect the impossible?

Why does the British justice system expect the impossible?


Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX
Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

This is a tale of Janet and John (which for the purposes of doubt and copyright law are not characters in books to teach children how to read).

Janet and John are instead in the Kafkaesque world of the British justice system. This is a world where the normal rules of time and space don’t apply!

Janet, John and another quite sensibly decided to settle their respective differences by consent order at a public hearing 9 months ago, but then came a 9 month legal argument about costs.

She asked the Tribunal to issue costs directions at a hearing. The Judge ruled that he and his fellow Tribunal Members would decide on her costs application.

Janet wanted John to pay her employer £1,212. She explained in her costs application that she had sent John letters stating the information he had requested was on a website (when it fact she admitted at the hearing it wasn’t on a website) and therefore John should pay her for £1,212 which included time spent sending him those letters.

The Judge ruled that he and his fellow two members would decide on her costs application once Janet made it.

John replied to the costs application, disputing what Janet stated. On a 2:1 decision it was decided that he hadn’t acted unreasonably between the 4th August 2016 and the 22nd August 2016 (which covered the first two of her letters). So, £224.66 of her costs application was rejected on that basis.

That left £967.57, which was reduced by a further £467.57 to £500.

John paid Janet’s employer the £500, but then pointed out that as part of her costs application had been about a time when the Tribunal had ruled him reasonable, that part of his costs in responding to the costs application should be paid by Janet. He saw this only as fair and asked for a much lower amount of £212.20.

The Judge decided not to decide on this costs application and threatened John with a wasted costs order if he didn’t shut up.

So John requested permission to appeal (both against the £500 costs order and against the non-decision over the £212.20 costs application).

Over 9 months later after his costs application for £212.20, he received the permission to appeal decision (which was denied).

In it, the Judge demanded (in a communication sent to John on the 25th July 2017) that he (John) must send an email by 4 pm on the 15th March 2017.

Like Janet he expected John to do the impossible and threatened him with further financial problems if he did not!

So that is my brief summary of the state of the British justice system, it expects the impossible from parties and when it doesn’t manage to achieve the impossible, the parties are supposed to pay the price and again for it through taxes!

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Why was trouble brewing in the Shire about a fire station? (Lord of the Rings parody)

Why was trouble brewing in the Shire about a fire station? (Lord of the Rings parody)

Why was trouble brewing in the Shire about a fire station? (Lord of the Rings parody)


This is a parody of local politics based on the Lord of the Rings. As someone referred to in it I’d better declare an interest. As a child I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a Wirral Council library that Wirral Council later tried to close (but the government stopped them) because of people who Wirral Council would probably label “unreasonable”.


The Shire in the Lord of the Rings as imagined in the film
The Shire in the Lord of the Rings as imagined in the film

In the Shire, trouble was brewing. Not only were the hobbits cross at plans to concrete over their beloved countryside with a fire station, but Men had decided (although it was now under review) to spend much of the hobbits’ money on a golf resort project too.

This story had begun some time ago.

The hobbits had decided on a representative called McVey who a group of the Men had taken a dislike to*. The Men had told the hobbits that McVey was why their fire stations must close (even though the Men had decided this). This way the Men could persuade the hobbits to ditch McVey and pick the Men’s representative instead. It was all about power!

* I’m being diplomatic.

So there were consultation meetings of the hobbits so well attended, hobbits couldn’t get in and stood outside getting cross.

At these meetings the Fire Man, who lived in the Shire, told those who actually managed to make it inside that whoever the hobbits voted for the fire stations would still close. So much for democracy!

However the Men got worried, enough of the hobbits were cross about the issue, that if the Men decided to put a new fire station in Greasby (demolishing a much-loved library and community centre in the process), McVey might win again! So the Men gave the credit for stopping the fire station plans to the Men’s candidate instead who had a very Shirey sounding name Greenwood.

Instead as a plan B, the new fire station would now be in Saughall Massie.

Around this time, a man who’d grown up in the Shire as a child and was described by some as a legend (or as the Judge described him “obstinate” and “unreasonable”*) asked the Men for the costs of this project as the Men claimed it was to save money. The arguments around this matter carried on for 1 year and 5 months (despite the law stating this information should be provided within 20 working days!)

* George Bernard Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Although the information was eventually provided, it turned out that the hobbits had been lied to during the consultations so that the Men could get the answers they wanted!

Oh dear!

Not only that but the Men had repeated these lies in their planning application for the fire station in Saughall Massie.

Double oh dear!

However the Judge decreed at a hearing (the Judge later admitted that he hadn’t read all the papers about this matter before the hearing took place*) that there was no “public importance” to the hobbits knowing that they’d been lied to and later ordered the man to pay the Men £500.

* thus stating more in a nutshell about justice, fairness and decision-making than the man ever could

This was despite the Men who controlled the Fire Authority having an annual budget of £62.673 million (revenue) and £20.6 million (capital). The Fire Authority had also received £297,900 (revenue) and £4.171 million (capital) in extra funds by the government for the fire stations mergers project.

The Men on the Fire Authority also had decided to pay their in-house solicitor £102,000 a year and picked this person too.

After all the Men had been saying for ages the hobbits should give them more money and the Men really disliked requests for information! This was money that the Men on the Fire Authority could then spend on taxis to public meetings, expensive dinners and stays in hotels.

The fact that the man who had grown up in the Shire had (as a result of this) told the hobbits that ~£300,000* of their money for the land would go to the very body who decided on the planning application (if the planning application was approved) was embarrassing to the Men (who had wanted to keep this a secret).

* at 2015 prices, anybody want to leave a comment on the legal implications of this?

But the legend (that was what people called him) still believed in openness and transparency.

He had realised that the Shire was in danger of being altered permanently and corrupted by greedy Men interested in power.

Not just with the fire station, but with the golf resort too.

Greed had truly corrupted the Men’s hearts.

But what would happen next?

Would the Planning Committee refuse the planning application for the fire station?

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Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”

Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit brands some whistleblowing as “Mickey Mouse” & “complete nonsense”


ED 26/11/14 15:16 – Following a complaint from Merseytravel received on the 26th November 2014, the word “some” has been added to the headline for the purposes of clarity.

Declaration of Interest: The author of this piece was years ago involved as the Claimant in litigation against Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (defendant) and Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (defendant) that started and concluded in 2007 in the Birkenhead County Court. This was after first raising his concerns internally with its former Chief Executive Neil Scales and former Chair of Merseytravel Cllr Dowd. At this stage the matter could have been easily settled for £15 but Merseytravel chose at that stage not to.

Merseytravel’s legal costs in the matter were estimated at £thousands (which Merseytravel paid themselves and would have had to pay whether they won or lost). The increased legal costs of Merseytravel were partly because of what happened as detailed below.

During the case Merseytravel’s barrister (in my opinion a barrister is indeed slight overkill for a £15 claim in the small claims track in the county court, but I know now it’s common practice in the public sector to do this) had to (rather embarrassingly) ask for the permission from both the Claimant (myself) and the Birkenhead County Court to withdraw the first signed witness statement of their expert witness (a Merseytravel employee) after I pointed out a factual inaccuracy in their witness statement (that the witness (a Merseytravel employee) had indeed signed a statement of truth for).

Merseytravel also sought (initially but later changed their mind on that) in 2008 to withhold documents referred to from the Claimant that were referred to in their defence. If I remember correctly a Merseytravel employee stated to me at the time that such documents (which were details of their charging policy for lost Solo and Trio passes) were not for the public.

The final judgement in the case (by agreement by both Merseytravel and myself) was later modified by the Birkenhead County Court due to a factual error made by the Judge who had not taken into account an earlier application in the case and chosen to ignore me pointing this out to him at the time of the hearing.

Although the judge at the final hearing agreed with me that Merseytravel had discriminated against me three times because of a protected characteristic, the court accepted Merseytrave’s reliance on a statutory defence that discrimination on these three times was justified due to a “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” because of decisions by politicians.

The four councillors from Wirral Council at the time on Merseytravel (the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority) were:

Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour)
former Cllr Denis Knowles (Labour at the time but switched to the Conservatives)

It is perhaps to be noted that as is relevant to how politicians and those in the public sector relate towards protected minorities (and this point here is obviously to do with attitudes towards a different protected minority) that Denis Knowles in 2012 later faced a Wirral Council Standards Hearing Panel hearing based on a complaint of Denis Knowles after a comment he left on Facebook about members of the LGBT community who were members of the Labour Party. He was suspended at the time from the Conservative Party.

former Cllr Jacqueline McKelvie (Conservative)
Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem)


A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel's whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014
A councillor asks a question about Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy at a public meeting of its Audit and Governance SubCommittee 24th November 2014

Cllr Steve Foulkes (Vice-Chair of Merseytravel’s Audit and Governance Sub-Committee) now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority sent his apologies to a public meeting to discuss Merseytravel’s whistleblowing policy and was not present.

Officers of Merseytravel were asking councillors for their comments on a draft whistleblowing policy which included such priceless paragraphs as:

“10.2 If you do take the matter outside Merseytravel, you should ensure that you do not disclose confidential information acquired during your employment unless it falls within the qualifying criteria for protected disclosures. Premature or inaccurate media exposure or adverse publicity may cause needless reputational damage, impede a proper investigation or cause unnecessary distress to individuals.”

I will translate those two sentences in the draft policy into what my interpretation of the intention behind it is and probably in much clearer English:

“10.2 If you rat on us to the press, not only will we [Merseytravel] start spinning to the press and refer to any damaging press report as “inaccurate”, we’ll go after you (despite what the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 c.23 states as we’re more bothered with our reputation and making sure that we control the flow of information about our organisation to both to the public and politicians.”

The references made during the public meeting itself to a hypothetical whistleblower as “Mickey Mouse” (whether made in jest or not) speaks volumes about cultural attitudes that still persist at Merseytravel.

However bearing in mind my unusually long declaration of interest made at the start of this piece, I had better not let how dysfunctional Merseytravel was in 2007 influence my reporting of it in 2014 as the Merseytravel politicians of 2014 are keen to put its somewhat chequered past behind it.

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Merseytravel’s (now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s) Audit and Governance Subcommittee public meeting of the 24th November 2014

The whistleblowing item (item 7) starts at 31m 48s into the meeting and can be watched above. The report and draft policy can be read on Merseytravel’s website.

Councillor Fulham at the meeting asked, “Thanks Chair. Errm, I appreciate that on page 48 of the agenda and at 7.4 in the policy, errm it says that this part of the that I’m looking at, I’ve found somewhere I’m looking at says this policy applies even if after investigation, disclosure is found to be incorrect or unfounded and there are statutory protections which the policy acknowledges for people who errm make a protected disclosure, that’s found out too. Well at the end of the process is found out not to be errm founded but it might be a reasonably held disclosure.

But what worries me is on page 46, where it says policy statement, under errm in chapter 4 “we will investigate all genuine and reasonable concerns”, but the way I would approach things, you can’t make an assessment whether it’s genuine or reasonable until you’ve investigated it? So it kind of precludes the investigation. So errm, why is that there?”

Stephanie Donaldson, Merseytravel’s Head of Internal Audit answered “OK, you’re absolutely right in so far as how can you tell that anything’s genuine or legitimate until you investigate it, so realistically everything will be investigated to a point.

However if something was found to be errm you know complete nonsense for want of a better word then that investigation would cease. We wouldn’t pursue investigating something which is you know completely unfounded or false then, but you’re right that there is the legislation requires that as long as it’s in the public interest it should still be investigated and that’s what the changes to the policy would fly at.

I suppose the purpose of that one in the policy statement and I will take some advice through you Chair from legal, is that errm, that if we received a complete nonsense of an allegation and it’s clearly complete nonsense from Mickey Mouse for example that we would not investigate that, there are boundaries aren’t there?

Errm, but you’re absolutely right to say that in a majority of I think all cases, it would be you have to undertake an investigation in order to assess its legitimacy.”

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A stranger rides in to Wirral Town in a thrilling Wild West tale about gold, greed, horses, the law and a land grab

A stranger rides in to Wirral Town in a thrilling Wild West tale about gold, greed, horses, the law and a land grab

A stranger rides in to Wirral Town in a thrilling Wild West tale about gold, greed, horses, the law and a land grab


John Wayne as the sheriff in Rio Bravo
John Wayne as the sheriff in Rio Bravo

The following is a work of satire.

Deep in the dusty, hot West was a town called Wirral. This tale is about a land grab, a common theme in these parts as some townsfolk had let greed enter into their hearts.

Outside of town were about ten acres of farmland known as Fernbank Farm where all day the pony club offered rides to the local children. Everyone had fun there and the pony club had been there for as long as people could remember and paid rent for the use of the land to their landlord. Everybody was happy.

Little did the pony club know then, but their landlord wanted them off that land. At first they thought everything was going as it had in years gone by as their landlord even sent them a new lease to sign, which they returned back thinking everything would be just as it was in the past.

However they didn’t know that the local politicians had had a meeting and at this meeting they had changed the rules so a hundred houses could be built on the land. This was deliberately kept a secret from the pony club on the instructions of Tony Simpson.

Once a deadline had been passed and a new lease had deliberately not been agreed (while telling the pony club they would happily agree to a new lease), the landlord went to Surjit “the Sheriff” Tour, who worked for the landlord to ask him what to do. He told them that he couldn’t turf the pony club off their land yet and in order to evict them he’d first need a judge to agree to it.

The pony club were surprised by this move and got Kirwan (a lawman and former politician to help them), he did his best but the pony club soon ran out of gold coins to pay him and asked for help from Lewis instead.

The pony club’s day in court came and in the judge’s chambers in the town’s courthouse a Judge explained to all (including two curious journalists from the local reservation) that it would have to go to a proper trial where everyone would have their say. Reluctantly the landlord agreed to this.

The day of the trial came and another Judge was in charge. The landlord had hired expensive help from far, far away. The Judge said he was very sorry, but that he had no choice but to sign a possession order to turf the pony club off the landlord’s land. His hands were tied, he felt he had no choice but was very apologetic. If their landlord hadn’t been so underhand he said, he would have granted the pony club a new lease, but now unfortunately his hands were tied.

Once again the two curious journalists from the local reservation were there including a large number of the townsfolk who wanted the pony club to stay. The journalists wrote down what happened, told the local people and a story about the trial appeared in the town’s newspaper.

The husband of one of those put on trial felt the whole thing was unfair and complained. The landlord read his complaint but (surprise, surprise) said he didn’t agree. One of the two curious journalists from the local reservation even asked a question at a meeting of the politicians (it took a month for the politician to answer).

The landlord wasn’t entirely happy with these two going off the reservation at all, as well, these two were known to have caused trouble in the past but they also knew the townsfolk would really start kicking up a fuss if a large number of braves on horseback rode into the town because of how badly it had been handled. You see those on the reservation quite liked horses and didn’t like as it tended to be translated “white man speak with forked tongue”.

It wasn’t the done thing anymore for the landlord to label people (even those from the reservation) they saw as troublemakers as “crazy”. They’d done just that and ending up having to pay many, many, many (and probably a few more) gold coins to a Mr. Morton (a former employee) after he’d raised a big stink about their past skullduggery and a large amount of gold coins that the landlord had stolen accidentally removed in one of their “mistakes” and had said that they wouldn’t pay back (later changing their mind).

So what was the landlord to do? They asked a stranger from far away to come into town. The stranger did come into town, he talked with the pony club and he talked with the landlord.

Not quite understanding the rules of the game* Mr Aspin (the stranger) was from a far away town called Rochdale. He was not a lawman, but a surveyor but he did not like all he surveyed. Phrases such as “this is not an appropriate action for a Local Authority landlord to take”, “accusation of dishonesty”, “gnawed at his professional conscience” and “unfortunate sequence of events” ran through his report as a series of criticisms as to how the landlord had behaved.

*rules of the game referring to the landlord’s rule in that they preferred “independent” people to agree with them as if they didn’t it would mean no more gold coins from the landlord for them.

The stranger recommended they send an immediate written apology to the pony club, pay them them the gold coins they had paid to Kirwan and allow them to stay rent free as well as finding them somewhere else to move to.

Oh dear, what was the landlord to do? Sooner or later those two pesky reservation journalists would start writing about it (although on the plus side the landlord thought it might stop them writing about another of their dastardly schemes to try and close a local school called Lyndale) and then their mistakes would end up in the newspaper again which would mean all the townsfolk would know. Oh dear! How could they stop the press writing about it they thought? Let’s release the report on a Saturday they decided, the press won’t be at work then.

As no politician wanted to associate themselves with such an unpopular issue, they got the big cheese and well-known troubleshooter Mr. Burgess to apologise. “We apologise for the distress”, “the site is on of the three most valuable council-owned development sites”, “savings targets” and “we should have communicated better” he wrote as well as making the same commitment his boss had Councillor Phil Davies to find the pony club somewhere else.

Mr Burgess even went a little too far in some people’s minds in his enthusiasm and wrote things like “the independent investigation”“found that the Council acted legally throughout possession proceedings” when the investigator’s report in fact stated “I am satisfied that the Council followed the correct procedure in the preparation and issuing of Court proceedings. It is outside my remit to make further comments in this regard as a legal process subsequently followed resulting in the Court granting permission.”

So, one of the two journalists on the reservation saw what went on and wrote this tale and here it is. A partial victory for the pony club, but it seems that the fight will carry on.

Tune in for next week’s thrilling episode about the Wild West Town of Wirral to hear how about the landlord continues to get into hot water in its efforts to “evict” disabled children from the local school called Lyndale in another tale of communication problems, politicians, apologies but this time (as far as we know at this point) not involving horses.

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