QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|- and -|
|VALUATION APPEALS TRIBUNAL||Respondent|
(Incorporating Beverley F. Nunnery & Co.)
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5 New Street Square, London EC4A 3BF
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This transcript has been approved by the Judge.
THE APPELLANT appeared in Person.
Mr B Du Feu appeared on behalf of the Respondent.
Crown Copyright ©
MR JUSTICE GOOSE:
(a) when the tenant moved out of the property in August 2013 it was classed as unoccupied and unfurnished and, as such, the appellant received the benefit of an unoccupied and unfurnished discount;
(b) the billing authority's inspector's observations, being that the property was empty, during an external inspection on 28th October 2014;
(c) the appellant had failed to allow an internal inspection; he would only allow the billing authority to inspect it if they agreed to pay £250.
On the above grounds the panel upheld the decision of the billing authority and, therefore, the appeal was dismissed.
The Nature of this Appeal
"20. The approach of the High Court in an appeal such as this from a decision of a first-tier tribunal is very clear: absent a patent error of law or findings of fact which simply cannot be justified on the evidence, the High Court will not interfere. A court sitting on appeals such as this will not substitute its own judgment on the facts found by a tribunal merely because it comes to a different conclusion on the facts or the balance to be struck amongst a number of competing factors."
The Appeal and Grounds
i. "Failure to assess factual situation";
ii. "Wrong perspective adopted";
iii. "Excluding evidence";
iv. "A rebuttable presumption";
v. "An unoccupied dwelling listing is not contrary to second-home status";
vi. "Attaching too much weight";
vii. "Proposed inspection";
viii. "Discretion or statutory right";
ix. "The refusal letter".
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Mr Du Feu, do you want to say anything?
MR DU FEU: I am instructed to make an application for costs pursuant to 44.2. Given that Mr Heslop is not represented, I should draw your attention to a couple of provisions which would be relevant to your determination. CPR 52, particularly ss.19; yes, 52.19. This of course is an appeal from a jurisdiction where there is a principle of no costs.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Give me a moment while I read it. (Pause) I will summarise it so that Mr Heslop understands the point.
Normally, Mr Heslop, what follows in an appeal or hearing - the general principle - is that the loser pays the costs subject to assessment. But Mr Du Feu is being entirely professional and proper in saying that in cases such as this there is a slightly different test which helps you. Civil Procedure Rule 52.19:
"(1) Subject to rule 52.19A, in any proceedings in which costs recovery is normally limited or excluded at first instance, ..... " –
Is that right?
MR DU FEU: That is right.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: -
"an appeal court may make an order that the recoverable costs of an appeal will be limited to the extent which the court specifies.
(2) In making such an order the court will have regard to -
the means of both parties; [they are your means, Mr Heslop]
all the circumstances of the case; and
the need to facilitate access to justice."
It is not an Aarhus Convention claim, is it?
MR DU FEU: No.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: So, essentially, therefore, I have to have in mind the means of the parties - the defendant is a local authority - and the circumstances of the case and the need to facilitate access to justice; the third of those is a stand-alone principle, is it not? First, can you indicate what level of costs it is that you seek subject to those matters.
MR DU FEU: That is my next issue in that although my instructions are to seek costs, I have not seen a costs schedule. I can tell you what my costs are of today but I cannot assist you much further than that, and Mr Heslop will not have seen a costs schedule either, neither will the court to the best of my knowledge. The costs, as I understand them to be today, are £800 plus VAT. I cannot assist you any further with costs. I do not think I can ask for any more than that.
The provision 52.19 would of course require Mr Heslop to make an application and he may need to indicate that he would like that to be considered. I will leave that matter to you in order to determine how costs should proceed today. My instructions are to make an application for costs and I do so on the basis that they should follow the event.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Mr Heslop, it may be possible you might want to think about it but normally the proceedings are resolved today rather than to put things off. Do you want to say something about your means, in other words your ability to pay? Are you in work?
THE APPELLANT: I was working until last December but I had a problem with my boss who became very aggressive.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: What was your job? What did you do?
THE APPELLANT: I was writing letters for a property developer. Anyway, he became very aggressive and abusive so basically -- and when he has a case and loses the case, basically, he goes mad. So, basically, I had to leave and because I am now 63, basically, at my age I am not seeking work. I have other things to do so basically-----
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: I bear in mind - it is important - that the hearing below involved no costs liability. On the other hand, it has been brought to this court which does involve costs. I also bear in mind very much the need to facilitate access to justice. You have a claim, you must be entitled to bring it and costs must not put people off if they are too high. On the other hand, the amount of claim which could, if it had been properly done (I am sure Mr Du Feu will understand what I mean) could have had a figure much higher than being claimed. Is the figure being claimed at the moment a figure you would find impossible to pay?
THE APPELLANT: This £800 plus VAT?
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Yes.
THE APPELLANT: VAT is what - 20%? You are talking of what?
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: 960.
THE APPELLANT: Basically, I would still need to pay by instalments.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: That can be done. I can give a date by which you could pay which would be long enough to allow you to do it. Do you want a number of months to be ready to pay it rather than do it by instalments?
THE APPELLANT: I would think that is about two years, isn't it? I have got other debts. I have a personal loan. I have other debts.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: It is quite a long time - two years. You can set it up. I can make an order to pay by instalments but to some extent it is probably easier if, for example, you are given six months or even longer - perhaps 12 months - to pay and then you pay all in that time.
THE APPELLANT: Sorry?
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Then you pay it within that time. It gives you time to pay it.
THE APPELLANT: If you could make that 18 months then I think that is -- all I would say on that is that I treat bills very importantly. Basically, Sefton Council they have not in my council tax account not mentioned it about payment but basically all their payments were made. I paid my council tax. Basically, I usually pay it on a weekly basis. I take paying bills and debts very importantly.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: I am not going to invite submission on this. It is more a matter of feel and 52.19. I think you ought to be able to pay any costs I order within 12 months rather than longer. Longer than that becomes too long. I will reduce it a little to facilitate that. That is no respect to Mr Du Feu. I will make it a total of £750, that is inclusive of VAT. It seems to me that that ought to be more achievable.
THE APPELLANT: Okay, thank you.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Payable within 12 months. I am sure you appreciate that is considerably less than - the proceedings that we have had - costs would have been, but it seems to me to make a point but also assists Mr Heslop who is acting in person.
MR DU FEU: I am grateful. Do you wish me to draw up the order?
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Please, would you do that?
MR DU FEU: How would you like the application, the disposal of the application to be reflected on the order?
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: Mr Heslop, do you withdraw the application?
THE APPELLANT: I withdraw the application because obviously there is no point.
MR JUSTICE GOOSE: If you could have it "on appeal being dismissed, application withdrawn", something of that sort.
Mr Heslop, may I also, in concluding the proceedings, thank you for your submissions and also recognise the quality of the bundle you put together and your skeleton arguments. So thank you for that because it quite often is the case with people acting on their own behalf that it is harder work for the court because of the way they prepared.
THE APPELLANT: Thank you.