As Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie head off for court this morning (RCJ; Court 64; Before MRS JUSTICE SIMLER DBE; Thursday 25 February, 2016; At half past 10), many of our readers are keenly interested in the outcome of their case.
We thought it might be useful to offer some background, to show how matters have proceeded to this pass. As we’ve mentioned, Sabine and Belinda are being required to pay £2,000 in court costs related to the Melissa Laird case. Here’s an extract of the transcript from the hearing two years ago at which those costs were assessed: if you have time to read the entire transcript, it offers a fascinating glimpse at the Laird case, and Sabine and Belinda’s role in it. The hearing was heard before Mrs Justice Simler, who will also be hearing today’s case.
We think the following paragraphs explain a great deal:
113. Very often the court and litigants in person are greatly assisted by the presence or involvement of responsible McKenzie friends in proceedings. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case.In this case, since at least 27 August 2013, the McKenzie friends, Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie, purported to act for and represent the Claimant [Melissa Laird], making applications for renewal and urgent applications to revoke the deportation order or to stay the Claimant’s removal. The serial grounds for renewal, advanced by them on the Claimant’s behalf, have no merit whatever, as I have found. Not only are the individual challenges out of time, but they mostly challenge persons who are not before this court or involve private law matters and are, accordingly, misconceived. The renewed grounds should never have been raised. They have been persisted with, despite the fact that a skeleton argument was served on 14 March by the Secretary of State, affording ample opportunity for them to consider the arguments and reasons advanced as to why they have no merit. The renewed grounds have been persisted in despite a number of court orders and reasons identifying and explaining all the points that make them unarguable.
114. Finally, the McKenzie friends have made no attempt to contact the Defendant [Secretary of State for the Home Department] or to inform the Defendant of the adjournment applications in December, March and now, or, at least, of their likely non-attendance at the hearing today. No explanation for this has been offered by them.
115. I am satisfied that all those matters take this case out of the ordinary, and make it an exceptional case, where rather than help, the McKenzie friends appear on the face of the documents to have considerably aggravated the position by unnecessarily adding to the costs. I am persuaded that there is a basis for making a provisional partial order of costs against them as non-parties, but I am not persuaded that it would be appropriate to do so in respect of the whole of the costs given the Claimant’s own involvement and acquiescence in the steps they appear to have taken from 24 August 2013 onwards.
116. I can only deal with this matter on a broad brush basis. Doing the best I can, I assess the costs for which the McKenzie friends are provisionally responsible in the sum of £2,000. I, therefore, join the two McKenzie friends, Belinda McKenzie and Sabine McNeill, as parties for the purposes only of dealing with costs. This is a provisional order only. They are not present today and they must have the opportunity to apply within seven days for a hearing to show cause why they should not pay the costs of £2,000 that appear to have been unnecessarily incurred in prolonging these proceedings as a consequence of their repeated adjournments without informing Treasury Solicitors and their renewed grounds raising unmeritorious challenges that have been persisted with as already explained. Should they do so, that hearing will be listed and their representations will be considered. If they do not apply within the next seven days, the provisional costs order will take effect. I should say the seven days will run from the date of service of this order on them.
So there you have it: Mrs Justice Simler’s rationale for joining Sabine and Belinda as parties to the Laird case for the purposes of dealing with costs. Short version: “They made an enormous hash of the case, causing it to be drawn out far longer than it ought to have been, dithering and failing to communicate in a timely manner (or even, sometimes, at all), and advancing arguments that are without merit or are basically just ridiculous.
In short, they’ve made a giant mess, and they’re being asked to pitch in to help clean it up.
Let’s hope they can be made to pay their share. And don’t worry, as soon as we hear anything, we’ll be back here with results!