Three members of a family who flouted planning laws and defied a judge by failing to clear caravans and scrap from their land have been spared jail for their contempt of court – but have been ordered to pay a £20,000 fine and substantial legal costs bills.
As the culmination of a ‘grave planning history’ that had stretched over 20 years, the trio had been given eight weeks by the High Court to clear, restore and re-seed their land. After they failed to meet that deadline, they were each jailed for four months although their imprisonment was stayed pending appeal.
In quashing the jail terms, the Court of Appeal noted that, since the sentences were passed, the trio had belatedly complied with the order. They had also finally admitted that they were responsible for the breaches of the injunction and had apologised to the Court through their counsel.
Lord Justice Sullivan observed, “The appellants must understand, to put it bluntly, that it is one thing to put two fingers up to the planning system but quite another to put two fingers up to the Court. People who do that tend to get put inside unless there is a very good reason not to. I am just persuaded that there is sufficient good reason in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.”
The trio were instead ordered to pay a financial penalty of £20,000 and to cover the local authority’s legal costs on the punitive indemnity basis.