Article published 27/02/2019.
Local authorities and the courts are quite well-known for being a bit bossy! But when you blatantly ignore orders of the court, there can be a hefty price to pay, as one pub landlord found out.
Mr Garry was first convicted in February 2018 for the unauthorised display of an advert. Despite the conviction, Mr Garry didn’t remove the offending sign. So Gateshead Council decided to take him back to court and last month (January 2019) the magistrates fined him £250 for every day that the sign was displayed following his conviction last year.
The history of the case is not particularly complex – the unauthorised sign was reported to the Council in August 2017; the Council asked Mr Garry to remove said sign; Mr Garry did not remove the sign; Mr Garry applied for planning permission for the sign; the Council refused planning permission on the grounds that it was “visually intrusive, cluttered and over-dominant due to its scale, appearance and location; is inappropriate within its surroundings and unsympathetic to the wider area, resulting in harm to the amenity of the area” ; Mr Garry did not appeal the decision, nor did he remove the sign; the Council took Mr Garry to court; the court convicted Mr Garry in his absence and fined him £1000; Mr Garry still did not remove the sign; the Council asked Mr Garry to remove the sign; Mr Garry still did not remove the sign; the Council issued proceedings for the continuing offence of failing to remove the sign, after which Mr Garry did remove the sign; the matter went to court again (the offence had already been committed) and the bench found Mr Garry guilty of continuing to display the illegal sign and fined him £50,750. He was also ordered to pay the Council’s costs of returning to court in the sum of £336 and the victim surcharge levy of £170, making a total bill of £51,256. Not end of story - Mr Garry is reportedly preparing his appeal against the magistrates’ court’s decision but has not yet revealed the basis of that appeal.
What can be gleaned from this decision is that, when planning authorities are persistent in the exercise of their powers, and the prosecution thresholds are met, the courts are willing to demonstrate support for the justified and reasonable application of those powers.
Given that the fine of £50,750 amounts to a charge for only 203 days, it may be presumed that the court did take some account of mitigation insofar as the removal of the sign prior to the court hearing was concerned. Watch this space for signs of the appeal...
Photo courtesy of ncjMedia (as published by Chronicle Live).