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Judge scolds 'impertinent' defendant at the centre of long-running planning row

Co Down couple facing massive fine and demolition of their home

By Paul Higgins

Published 20/08/2016

William and Roberta Young leaving Downpatrick Court yesterday
William and Roberta Young leaving Downpatrick Court yesterday
William and Roberta Young's Greyabbey home

A man who faces a mammoth fine and the prospect of bulldozing his home because of a planning breach has been labelled as "impertinent" by a judge.

During a terse exchange between Judge Piers Grant and William James Young at Downpatrick County Court as the judge tried to find out if leave had been granted for a Judicial Review, Mr Young said twice that he was "sure the court will be aware" and that he was "surprised" the judge was not aware of parallel proceedings.

Judge Grant told the appellant, however, "I consider you to be impertinent", and warned him to "be careful" in how he addressed the court.

"Well I'm not (impertinent) - I'm trying to assist the court," replied Mr Young.

"I make it clear to you that in future when questions are asked of you, answer the question that you are asked and not the question that you think you want to be asked," said Judge Grant.

Last June, Mr Young and his wife, Roberta, were fined £75,000 each after District Judge Greg McCourt convicted them of being in breach of a planning notice, warning them that for every day their house on the Carrowdore Road in Greyabbey remained standing they were continuing to breach the order.

The judge heard that "as long ago as 2004" the couple had been served with an enforcement notice by the planning authorities as a result of property being built on the site that was in breach of planning permission.

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that since its inception in January 2004, the case "has been before the magistrates courts, twice", all through the higher courts, "all the way to the Supreme Court" and that at each and every stage the courts have deemed, "there is nothing wrong with the enforcement notice and that the law has been applied correctly".

"An inspection has been carried out recently," said the lawyer, adding that the offending building is still standing, meaning "the enforcement (notice) has not been complied with."

The conviction and fine was upheld last month by a different judge.

In what looks like a further cycle of court hearings, the case had been scheduled for another appeal in front of the more senior Judge Grant yesterday, but the court heard that the Youngs, who have chosen to represent themselves in court, had lodged papers at the High Court for a Judicial Review.

A lawyer for Ards and North Down Borough Council told the court he had heard there was a letter indicating the matter had been referred to the High Court, but the judge said there was,"certainly no indication on the papers presented that leave has been granted."

Ordering the couple to stand in the dock, Judge Grant asked Mr Young if the High Court had granted leave for a Judicial Review, and his reply that "the court should be well aware" was the beginning of the exchange in which the judge repeatedly asked if leave had been granted and told Mr Young to answer a "simple question" that "deserves a polite, proper answer".

Eventually, Mr Young revealed there were two applications lodged with the High Court for a Judicial Review into two different aspects of the case, and that a hearing was scheduled for November.

Ordering Mr Young to forward copies of the papers to the council's lawyer "forthwith", Judge Grant said he considered "the matter cannot be taken forward" until a decision came from the High Court regarding any potential appeal.

The judge's decision is another stage in a saga that first started in 2004 and that has been referred to the county courts, the High Court in Belfast and even the Supreme Court.

Belfast Telegraph

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