Lord Justice Hamblen on Haringey Council's court costs

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fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended)

Dear Ministry of Justice,

Please see news article relating to a recent court case.

http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/crime-cour...

/Quote/
..... Lord Justice Hamblen said it was “factually incorrect” that Haringey Council charged everyone for court hearings in 2013/14.

Haringey Council did charge a “lump sum” to everyone when sending out a court summons, but this figure did not include court hearing costs.

They waived any further costs which came about after sending the court summons.

“There is nothing unlawful in resolving to charge the maximum [costs]”, Lord Justice Hamblen said. “But the council was not seeking the maximum costs.”

The costs Haringey Council claimed from residents were actually slightly less than the council incurred, he explained.

And these costs could legitimately include legal fees, admin costs and overheads.

Lord Justice Hamblen said the costs Haringey Council charged were “not unreasonable”.
/End Quote/

It would be reassuring given the serious consequences, i.e. the substantial costs awarded Haringey's contractor Auditor, that Lord Justice Hamblen had more than a rough breakdown of expenditure to substantiate the claims in the article. For example, one arbitrarily quoting a proportion of the revenues budget which is then split between an estimated number of debtors would fail to reach the standard required by the High Court and be negligent if the word of the Auditor/council simply accepted.

In context of the high standards required by the Royal Courts of Justice, please disclose the specific information which enabled Lord Justice Hamblen to determine the above.

Yours faithfully,

fFaudwAtch UK

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I wonder which one, if either, was the calculation that received the scrutiny of the High Court.

This one which indicates that 76% of the entire council tax budget is attributable to the cost of issuing summonses: http://tinyurl.com/zt42xqu

Or, this one that recharges 88% of the budget to summons recipients: http://tinyurl.com/gwzuj4m

If either of these were submitted, it would have required some bias toward the state to have believed the claim.

Cunningham, Martin,

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Dear N Gilliat

 

Please find attached an acknowledgment of your freedom of information
request.

 

Martin

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Arnold Layne (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

"Lord Justice Hamblen said this was “factually incorrect”

If Lord Justice Hamblen has had figures to justify this I'd like to see them; or any other information which would convince him that the expenditure had been incurred in accordance with the council tax regulations and the recent judicial review ruling from May 2015, which the Reverend successfully obtained, but only after being made to jump through hoops.

These costs are applied to the taxpayer's account even before the council issues the summons, and by virtue of that could not possibly account for 76% of the total budget for Council Tax Admin and Recovery ( http://tinyurl.com/zt42xqu £2.89 million from a total £3.78).

Just to give credence to a statement made by one local authority that the work to secure payment once having obtained the liability order is one of the stages from which most costs arise (the other being the application for a liability order at Court), staff engage in activities ranging from notifying the debtor of possible further action to applying to the court for commitment to prison.

....Information must be obtained about the debtor’s circumstances in order to assess whether accounts are more suitable for attachments of earnings, deduction from benefits or referral to bailiffs.

....Where those measures fail to obtain payment then staff might engage in further recovery work, for example applying to the court for charging orders or instigating bankruptcy. Similarly to pre court action arrangements, terms of mutually acceptable payment plans might simply be agreed, albeit still requiring resources to correspond with debtors, re-schedule instalments and then monitor accounts until settled.

.....For all stages, staff must be available for dealing with queries whether by telephone or written correspondence.

All the above activities relate to an element of the Council Tax admin & recovery budget, which may not lawfully be included in the costs recharged to the summons, or for that matter the liability order hearing.

This all tells you one thing which is that issuing summonses, which are generated automatically as a consequence of settings which are pre-set in the computer's software, can not account for 76% of the whole Council Tax operation.

But the authority can't make its mind up because if you look at another breakdown for the same year, the element attributed to instituting the summons (aggregate) amounts to 88% of the total budget for Council Tax Admin and Recovery ( http://tinyurl.com/gwzuj4m £3.03 million from a total £3.44).

London RSU Kilo,

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Dear Mr Gilliat,
 
Please find attached a response to your freedom of information request.
 

Kind regards,
Knowledge and Information Liaison Officer

HM Courts & Tribunals Service | London RSU | 3rd Floor | First Avenue
House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP

 

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fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended)

Dear Ministry of Justice,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Ministry of Justice's handling of my FOI request 'Lord Justice Hamblen on Haringey Council's court costs'.

This information requires disclosing in the public interest.

Even if it provides evidence that members of the public are being defrauded by local authorities and the judicial system, that is no basis on which to withhold the requested information.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

Yours faithfully,

fFaudwAtch UK

F&G KILO Management,

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Dear Mr Gilliatt,

 

Thank you for your request for an Internal Review.

 

Please find attached an acknowledgement letter for your information.

 

Kind regards

 

H Greensmith

Knowledge Information Liaison Officer

HMCTS Governance and Assurance

 

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Dear Mr N Gilliatt

Please find attached the final response for your Internal Review reference number IR/104316/HG.

Yours Sincerely

Knowledge Information Liaison Officer
For
Finance & Governance

I am not authorised to bind the Ministry of Justice contractually, nor to make representations or other statements which may bind the Ministry of Justice in any way via electronic means.

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Dorothy Matricks (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Items 36 to 39 of the judgment appear relevant.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi...

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended)

Dear F&G KILO Management,

I have come by a calculation which may possibly form part of the information I requested (see below). I would appreciate it confirming whether or not this was the same breakdown considered by the judge and if so was there any additional figures and itemisation to support the gross sums.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/3...

Yours sincerely,

fFaudwAtch UK

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Request to review the Ministry of Justice's decision.

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane, Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

18/05/16

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF FOI REQUEST TO MOJ – Ref: FOI / 103632

I made a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice (the ‘MoJ’) on 26 February 2016. The details can be found on the “what do they know” website at the following address:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

On 29 March 2016 the MoJ confirmed that it held the requested information but would not be providing it as it was considered exempt from disclosure (section 32(1) of the FOIA), i.e., the documents I was seeking were contained in the relevant case files which are part of a court record. It also stated that it was not obliged, under section 40(2), to provide information which is the personal information of another person if its release would contravene any of he provisions in the Data Protection Act 1998 for example, if disclosure is unfair.

It was stated however that the court could be applied to directly for more information about the case but any application would be considered by the appropriate judge on its merit and there may be an associated charge if access were granted.

A request was submitted for an internal review on 29 March 2016 with the justification being that the information required disclosing in the public interest, even if it provided evidence that members of the public were being defrauded.

On 26 April 2016 the MoJ provided the review’s outcome in which it concluded that the response was compliant with the FOIA and therefore satisfied that the response sent on 29 March was correct.

CONTENTIONS

In respect of Section 40(2), it is difficult to conceive how this could have been a valid exemption because it would not have been anyone’s personal information. Rather, it would have been information held on record by Haringey council, or at least produced from such data held, as it was the submitted evidence which enabled the judge to be satisfied that the court costs Haringey Council claimed from residents were actually less than the council incurred.

In respect of Section 32(1) there is a reasonable argument to be made regarding whether the evidence (the required information) exists solely by virtue of being contained within the court record. If not it wouldn’t be exempt information under Section 32(1) as it would not be held only by virtue of being contained within the court record. A calculation produced by the council for budget purposes for example, if submitted as evidence would not exist only by virtue of being contained within the court record.

In order to have a properly accountable court process, it is essential that information surrounding cases is not made inaccessible to members of the public with the barrier of an application fee and for that reason it is warranted that the expertise of the Information Commissioner is called upon to review this.

Yours sincerely

fFaudwAtch UK

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

The Commissioner investigated the MoJ’s application of section 32(1)(a) and concluded that the MoJ was entitled to rely on this exemption to withhold the information. She requires no steps to be taken.

Will link to the Decision Notice when available on the ICO website.

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

It has been discovered since this request was made that the judgment of Lord Justice Hamblen is publicly available:

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi...

Also, another request along the same lines was submitted to Haringey Borough Council. In response to that the breakdown which was considered by the court was disclosed:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

In a further request made to Haringey the breakdown was broken down further:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

fFaudwAtch UK (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

A link to the Commissioner's Decision Notice:

https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

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