LiP who said he couldn’t hear lawyer wins judicial review case

Unable to hear: the litigant in person has alleged injustice

An elderly litigant in person (LiP) who said he could not hear from a local authority solicitor at a hearing into an unpaid council tax has won his judicial review of the decision.

David Pittaway QC, sitting as Deputy High Court Judge, said justice had not ‘been perceived to be done’ at the hearing at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court, which LiP Denis Paling said compared to an episode of Franz Kafka. The trial.

Mr Paling, represented by direct access counsel in a judicial review of the court’s decision to dismiss his challenge to a liability order obtained by Mid-Suffolk District Council, was described by his solicitor as “a 76-year-old man with a number of medical conditions” who had “suffered from strokes and was treated for cancer”.

Mr. Paling recounted that the man he called council counsel (actually a revenue officer), a Mr. Upson, “held his left hand in his pocket ‘and had his back to the LiP'” and spoke in a very low voice, which only the bench could hear”.

When Mr Paling “repeatedly expressed concern that he could not hear” the arguments and therefore could not respond to them, the bench chairman “took no action” to help him.

The LiP had delivered a 10-page summary of its case to the court at the start of the proceedings, but said it was not allowed to make oral submissions. When he “expressed his concern”, the chairman of the bench “threatened to reject” Mr Paling’s candidacy.

Judge Pittaway said a witness statement from council counsel detailed failed attempts to obtain a witness statement from Mr Upson, who retired in March.

In his absence, counsel relied on an attendance notice from Mr Upson and the court’s initial response – which otherwise took no part in the proceedings – to the charges.

The council argued there was no evidence that Mr Paling raised the issues of not being able to hear and reasonable adjustments until April this year.

There was “no basis” for his claim that he had been barred from addressing the court, nor was it “credible” that after a two-hour hearing Mr Paling did not not “fully aware” of the charges against him.

Judge Pittaway said Mr Paling’s summary showed he had “a clear understanding” of the case, but the “harder question” was whether the hearing itself was unfair.

He noted that the council’s submissions did not “directly address” the central allegations.

“By stepping back and coming to an independent perspective, I have concluded that the application for judicial review is successful. In my view, based on the claimant’s evidence, which I accept, an observer impartial and informed would conclude that justice has not been done in this case.

He referred Mr. Paling’s motion to a different panel.