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Council suffers massive court ‘defeat’
12:30pm Friday 12th October 2012 in News
WYCHAVON District Council has suffered a “crushing defeat” in court after trying to claim nearly £2million in a criminal compensation case – and winning only £5,750.
Businessman John Bruce, of Wadborough Hall Farm, Pershore, pleaded guilty at a magistrates court hearing in September 2011 to breaching a planning order by keeping goods vehicles for sale on a one-acre site in Crabbe Yard, Crabbe Lane, Pershore.
The site had planning permission for use as a builder’s yard, but Wychavon enforcement officers thought they had seen 151 goods vehicles being kept on the site from January 11 to September 29 last year, in breach of the order.
The figure was reduced to 101 on agreement at the start of the proceeds of crime application hearing at Worcester Crown Court last week.
Wychavon applied for a confiscation order totalling about £1.9 million, based – it said – on financial information disclosed by Mr Bruce and information provided by a financial investigator.
Bruce gave evidence about each vehicle and Judge John Cavell ruled three had breached the order.
One was a car worth £250, the second a pedestrian road roller worth £750 and the third a truck worth £4,750 – totalling £5,750. This was the amount awarded to the council.
Richard Adams, for Bruce, said it was a “crushing defeat” for Wychavon.
“When the proceedings started, they were seeking 1.67 million,” he said.
“This was then increased to £1.9 million. They have recovered £5,750, 0.29 per cent of the amount they were seeking.”
It was a “cavalier prosecution,” he said.
Tim Moores, for the council, said it believed there was a strong case, but admitted that the council had not succeeded in the way it had anticipated.
The council imposed a planning order on Bruce’s site, and later when Bruce contravened the order, the council took it to magistrates court – and Wychavon then applied to the crown court for the £1.9million order.
Bruce said: “If I had lost that amount, it would have finished my business,” he said, adding he was planning to pursue the council for his “substantial” legal costs.
Bruce was fined £1,500 for the original breach of the enforcement order.
A Wychavon spokeswoman said: “We took advice from a barrister, who confirmed there were genuine grounds for pursuing this application. It was granted, however it was only for £5,750.”