Delay in open court apology for council vendetta pub landlord over jurisdiction concerns
The CPRs do not expressly provide for an open court apology in abuse of process cases
A former pub landlord who had been set to receive an open court apology from North Northamptonshire Council yesterday morning (27 January 2022) after its predecessor pursued a vendetta against him following a dispute with a prominent local solicitor over a bottle of wine, faces a further wait for his apology after the court raised the issue of jurisdiction.
Monks was jailed in 2003 after he was unable to pay fines for food safety offences. He had been investigated after a prominent local solicitor, Jenny Lawrence, reported she had suffered food poisoning at one of his three pubs, the Snooty Fox in Lowick, in 1998.
The council went on to pursue a vendetta against Monks, which resulted in him being forced to sell his pubs, the loss of his home and a prison term. It later transpired that Lawrence was, at the time of the incident, involved in a sexual relationship with the council’s then chief executive, Roger Heath.
North Northamptonshire Council took over the operations and liabilities of East Northamptonshire Council in April 2021. It has admitted abuse of process and agreed to pay substantial damages to Monks and to apologise in open court for its predecessor's actions.
However, yesterday morning, the former pub landlord's legal team were informed by the court that the hearing would need to be adjourned, after the judge in charge of the Queen’s Bench Civil List, Mr Justice Soole, read the papers and raised the issue of jurisdiction.
The issue of jurisdiction has arisen because there is currently no express provision in the Civil Procedure Rules that allows for an apology of this type to be made specifically for the tort of abuse of process – as opposed, for example, to defamation, apologies for which are regularly made in open court).
It was initially believed that the order for an adjournment would be made without any need for attendance by the parties. However, the parties were then contacted again by the court and arrangements were made for a hearing at 11:00 am before Mr Justice Soole.
At the hearing, Mr Justice Soole made an order for a preliminary hearing to take place on the first available date on or after 1 March to consider the issue of the Court’s jurisdiction to deal with the matter in the way previously ordered by the court.
The open court apology cannot be given before the court has considered the issue.