I've been doing a little research in regards to the value of £5,000 which keeps cropping up when court action arises involving Britain First, and Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen hold their hands out to their followers. I'm immensely confused as to why they use such a high figure when merely instructing solicitors: "We need to urgently instruct our solicitors once again to take action against Chesterfield Council immediately".
Now whilst I have a working knowledge of Law, having done my degree in the subject, I respect that I am no solicitor, so it's not my area of expertise per se. However, I understand the process in which Britain First can make a claim against the council, as they intend to do: "We need to raise £5,000 over the weekend so that on Monday morning our legal representatives can pounce on Chesterfield Council.". I therefore asked a close friend of mine who is a practising solicitor to double check that I hadn't overlooked anything, which she confirmed I hadn't (aren't I good? 3 years since I graduated, I can't remember what I did yesterday but stuff like this is seemingly recalled at will). Paul states in their latest letter that they feel that the council "cannot legally cancel our contract", but that "they are going to try!". He's probably right, the council in their own terms & conditions under cancellations, only make note of being able to " cancel a hiring if the hall is required in connection with an election or if the hall is unusable due to breakdown of machinery or damage to premises". In these circumstances the council are obliged to refund any charges to the hirer, but are not liable for anything else. One would imagine that an immediate direction that Britain First would take if they felt so strongly about this would have been to apply for an emergency injunction. This is something which can be arranged to be heard at short notice even the same day in some cases, if they opt to have it heard ex parte (without the council present to provide a defence to the application). The chances are that they probably wouldn't be granted an ex parte hearing, but it's certainly an avenue they could have explored. The letter is dated the 4th of November so, assuming that the letter wasn't emailed to them immediately, and they were not given the courtesy of a phone call advising them of the cancellation at the time the letter was issued (which would I imagine, be normal practise for a council in the event of a change), it can be accepted that the letter arrived through the traditional postal system by Friday the 6th of November 2015. But we know of their own admission that “Chesterfield Council have sent us an email at the last minute”. They certainly can't argue they received notification over the weekend, so they have been given clear of a weeks’ notice, given that they chose to publish their announcement on this very date, and not at the "very last minute" as they claim. So, certainly therein is sufficient time to lodge paperwork for an injunction and serve it upon the council with a view to arranging a hearing for both sides at short notice sometime in the upcoming week. Now understandably, in order to file documents for this matter, it will cost money. So let us take a look at these costs. There are 2 elements to this. One is the cost of filing the paperwork to the courts. This is a cost which is a fixed figure, dependant on what they are claiming or asking the court to do. These figures are openly available to anyone, simply look on the Ministry of Justice's website (herein referred to as MoJ); the form with the relevant charges is the ex050 form. As I said, the amount this would cost varies on what Britain First would actually be seeking from the court. Assuming that they were simply seeking an injunction to stop the council from withdrawing on their contractually binding agreement, the fee would be a fixed rate of £280, payable to the County Court. Remember that figure. The other element to cost would be that of instructing a legal specialist if they were too lazy (or lack the intelligence) to fill out and submit the forms themselves. Agreed, they may just be instructing someone who has the necessary legal experience to ensure that the paperwork is filled out correctly, and is watertight in respect of the law.
Paul seems certain it is an open close case; “Chesterfield Council are taking a big risk with this decision because we have a signed legal contract for the booking, we have paid all the necessary fees and have complied with all of the clauses in the contract. In other words, they cannot legally cancel our contract.”, but I will assume that for his own piece of mind, that is the reason behind instructing a solicitor as opposed to filling out the forms himself. So I asked a number of practising solicitors what the cost would be to file such paperwork. The general consensus is a figure that is representative of 1-2 hours work, so in between £150 - £400 depending on who you are instructing, and their fees. Further to this, they would look to keep around £300 on account prior to any court dates, with a view to keeping that account in credit pending any subsequent dates if the matter could not be resolved in the first sitting. So let’s do the maths; the court fees, the solicitors’ charges for preparing the paperwork for an injunction, and a fee on account for the file should legal representation be required in court. That’s £280 + £400 + £300 respectively, giving a grand total of £980. Let’s round that up for arguments sake just to allow a little margin of error and have a nice round figure, to £1,000. That’s some £4,000 off the money that Paul Golding is seeking to raise over the course of the weekend, but realistically achievable if those foolhardy enough to believe in the cause that Britain First stand for. There is another scenario, in which through the County Court, Britain First can make application for “damages” – this is a legal term for what is generally monetary compensation. For this, there is a guidance table within the same form from the MoJ that allows you to calculate the cost of filing paperwork. It looks like this:
Paul is asking for £5,000. So let’s take a figure from the table above to work with, just to put this into perspective. If they were putting in a claim for £100,000 then the cost of filing the claim would be 5% i.e. 5% of £100,000 = £5,000. But then that leaves no room for solicitors’ fees etc. as mentioned earlier. So we know that they aren’t claiming that much. What about the lower end of that figure, the £50,000 mark? Well 5% of £50,000 is £2,500 which would leave them with the same for costs of services. Do they really think that their conference was worth this much? More to the point, do they think the judge will agree to their demand for this value? Bear in mind that the onus is on them to prove to the judge that their claim is worth this value. If they don’t, they potentially lose money, or if the judge rules in the favour of the council altogether, they lose their money, have to pay their solicitor, and become liable for the councils’ legal fees as well. It’s plain to see that if they are seeking a figure lower than £50,000 that once again a £5,000 target for funds seems a bit excessive. Whichever figure they are choosing to go for, Paul seems to have made it clear that this is something they are considering:
“Usually in these situations, when a contract has been breached causing immense hardship and cost, the complainant can win damages – who knows what can happen.”
But ask yourself this; if they do choose this option, what happens with the unspent funds? More-over, what happens if they are awarded damages too? Will they be returning any of the money they’ve begged for from their supporters?An alternative option would be to pursue the council through a more powerful court, the High Court, in an attempt to fight the council for the breach of contract on other grounds, such as discrimination. Now this is a much more costly option, with the need to instruct a solicitor, to instruct a barrister. Referring back to the guidance issued by the MoJ in terms of fees, to file an application in the High Court would cost £480. Factor in the Solicitors costs to prepare the paperwork at £400, gives us the grand total of £880. Let’s round that up to £1,000 again just to make things a little easier to work with. The cost of a Barrister will vary, depending on the level of experience, generally reflected by the number of years in service. Generally speaking, a barrister with under 5 years of experience will cost somewhere in the region of £75-£125 per hour. So that would give Britain First between 32 and 54 hours with a low level barrister. Someone with over 5-10 years can charge between £125 and 275 per hour, up to 15 years’ experience can easily charge upwards of £200 up to around £500. A member of the Queens Counsel (QC) can charge upwards of £350 per hour with no upper limit. So let’s say they go for someone who isn’t a member of the QC but has a number of years’ experience under their belt. I assume they want the best their money can buy, so a barrister with over a decade over experience would provide them with between 8 and 20 hours of service. So they would want to hope that the case doesn’t over run this time frame, and that they win it, because obviously the council would need to instruct a barrister too, and the costs are going to be more or less the same if you think about it. If they’ve had to beg for the £5,000, there will they another £5,000 if they lose? That’s if the costs don’t actually spiral out of control above that figure. Not to mention any damages that may get awarded. But again, say they do win. Say they are awarded damages. Not only will they have got back the £5,000 they’ve begged for, the will have an additional amount on top of this figure. Where does all this money go? Is any of it returned?
Obviously, there may be any number of other factors, options and variables that can affect this, but it gives you a general insight into the immediate options that Britain First are able to make use of, but I urge you to think very carefully about the figures I have displayed, and the figures being asked for. How transparent are Britain First really? Where does all this money actually go? Are they really a party you can trust? How many more times will they be passing the collection plate around for countless reasons, it seems there is always an excuse, always a reason they need their followers to cough up some spare change. And ask yourself this – do you really want a political party in power if every time things go wrong, they turn to their followers for more money? If they had the power, would that be a choice each time funds ran out, or would they enforcing taxation laws making it mandatory to hand them money every time they demanded it. There’s a famous legend that sounds
familiar to that, something to do with a Sherriff of some City in the East Midlands, and his arch enemy was the
good guy, who was a dab hand at archery and wore tights!
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Britain First website update re: cancellation of conference
MoJ HMCTS Form Finder
http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/ex050-eng.pdf (retrieved 06/11/15)