Nick de la Poer was instructed by Jeremy Scott, of Lupton Fawcett, to represent a landowner who was alleged to have fallen foul of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, by removing a number of plants from his land without having given notice to the Local Authority of his intention so to do. The landowner, a man in his fifties who had never before been in trouble with the police, was at risk of being convicted of a criminal offence for having had the plants removed.
Taking a preliminary point that he had identified, Nick argued that the proceedings should be stayed as an abuse of the Court’s process, on the basis that it would be unfair to try the defendant. The centrepiece of the argument was that the landowner had relied upon a Government hosted website, which incorrectly stated the law and which the defendant had relied upon when deciding not to inform the Local Authority that he was going to remove the plants.
The prosecution opposed the argument, pointing to elements of the website which it was contended should have caused the defendant not to rely exclusively on the website and to have made further checks.
A Senior Circuit Judge upheld submission that the proceedings were an abuse of process, agreeing with Nick’s argument that a reasonable interpretation of the Government hosted website led the conclusion that a citizen would not have to inform the Local Authority in the particular circumstances which applied to the defendant. The judge concluded that in these circumstances it would be unfair to try the defendant.
As a result of the ruling the proceedings against the defendant were stayed and the Court made a defendant’s costs order in favour of Nick’s client.