Mark Twain said “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
The possibility of having to pay ‘costs’ incurred by a private barrister employed by the Treasury Solicitor’s Office had NOT occurred to me when I began visiting Melissa Laird in HMP Holloway and listened to her horrific experiences – thanks to Gloria Musa who had been taken there in December 2011.
At some stage a ‘form of authority’ was required before lawyers would talk to us.
When a barrister brought in by CPT Solicitors who had advised Melissa to plead ‘guilty’ for abducting her own child, I paid the fee to lodge a Judicial Review which, however, was refused.
At that point, the barrister did not want to go any further. I guess he knew about the risk of ‘costs’ which I did not.
The Treasury Solicitors Office supposedly incurred ‘wasted costs’ to defend their reasons for deporting Melissa Laird on 12 September 2013 – without her having had an oral hearing:
- advised by John Hemming MP, she did not have the opportunity to exercise her rights of appeal, given the appallingly restrictive conditions in HMP Holloway;
- advised by the Senior Legal Manager Martyn Cowlin in the Administrative Court Office, she needed “the substance of her case” to be heard – in accordance with case law.
‘Costs’ incurred now cover supposedly £4, of which we are ordered to pay £2,000 – only because the Admin Court insisted in antiquated ISDN technology that Melissa couldn’t find in the US to represent herself.
In chronological order:
- on 29 August 2013 CPT Solicitors who were still ‘on the record’ at the Admin Court received a Notice for Oral Hearing to take place on 05 December 2013;
- on 12 September 2013 Melissa was deported and dumped in Dulles Airport – without ‘reception’, i.e. no cash as prisoners should be given and no address as should have been arranged and faithfully promised, especially since she was wheelchair-bound;
- at the hearing Belinda, myself and another McKenzie Friend were present when I asked for a Skype connection or videolink for Melissa;
- the Order by an unnamed judge said we must establish the right to defend the Claimant.
Since Melissa not only managed to establish herself in the US but also had studied the Law whilst in prison and since she has had access to the internet, we were neither prepared to represent her nor had the intention.
In view of the hearing Listings Officer Mr Odunlami told me that ISDN is required, whilst Skype is not secure.
However, Melissa told me that she spent $50 driving around trying to find this antiquated technology in the US and thus notified the Court:
I am writing to inform you and the court that there is no one in a 100 miles of where I reside that has ISDN or one that I can use. I am greatly upset by the fact that the court wil not allow Skype to be used as the majority of the systems here in America use that today and ISDN is considered out if date and old.
I reiterate that the Association of McKenzie Friends has the authority to represent me at this hearing. I feel that even though I requested this to be adjourned for 3 months to allow me to appear in person that this seems not to be just cause for the adjournment.
I do feel as justice is again being sidetracked due to the Treasury’s Solicitors. Again under the European Human Rights Article 6 I should have a fair and more importantly honest/just trial.
Following this, we got together and emailed:
Dear Mr Odunlami
I ended up speaking to Melissa Laird on Skype last night. On the occasion of an ad hoc Committee of the Association of McKenzie Friends, I would like you to act as follows:
A. Ask the judge for an adjournment for the following reasons:
- Her right to a fair trial;
- Her right for the substance of her case to be heard – which is the basis for our Judicial Review;
- She has significant case law to present to the judge that she found herself.
B. Accept SKYPE as the technology to let her represent herself from the US, where technological infrastructure has always been more advanced;
- She told me that she spent $50 on petrol driving around to find ISDN.
C. Due to her disability, combined with having been deported without reception, she still has serious problems to get online.
- This is the cause for her late response to you.
With many thanks in advance,
Sabine K McNeill
Apparently Mrs Justice Simler was surprised not to see us in Court.
Hence she ‘joined us to the case’ for the purposes of ‘costs’. After all, we needed to establish the ‘right to represent the Claimant’ – which we had not done.
What a way to encourage McKenzie Friends who operate pro bono to help prisoners who can’t find legal representation and thus have to appear as Litigants in Person! After all, the Legal Consumer Panel has just published a report on Fee-charging McKenzie Friends with 15 recommendations. No 4 says:
the Practice Guidance should be reviewed and amended to portray McKenzie Friends in a more positive way.
Why do we have a negative image in the Judiciary while only 6.5% of the general public know what a McKenzie Friend does, as mentioned in the report?
As ‘austerity’ is supposed to rule and legal aid is cut, why do McKenzie Friends get punished for helping as ‘good Samaritains’?
Christopher Booker writes in The Telegraph Shock costs ruling penalises those helping wronged parents.
John Hemming MP published on 16 August 2013: Mother to be deported whilst her child is kept for adoption.
That is not the ‘substance’, but the essence of her case! The rest is up to you to make sense of…