Thursday, July 14, 2005

Legal costs issue looms over Mod home repossession case

A ruling by the Chief Justice in the unions’ legal challenge to the Ministry of Defence’s local privatisation plans has had a knock-on impact on a separate case involving people resident in military properties in Gibraltar.

The ministry wants to repossess the houses and claims those living in the premises are now trespassers.

Lawyers acting for the MoD had initially filed a lawsuit against the residents in the name of the Attorney General for Gibraltar, Ricky Rhoda QC, as ‘representative of the British Government.

But in a ruling on the privatisation case last month, Chief Justice Derek Schofield found that the Attorney General is the law officer for Gibraltar and could not be used as a party to represent the British Government in court proceedings. Yesterday, that decision was reflected in the housing case.

The MoD’s local lawyers, Isola & Isola, have applied to substitute the Attorney General with the British Secretary of State for Defence in the proceedings against the 15 tenants.

The move was good news for defence lawyers representing the tenants, who had argued in an earlier hearing that the Secretary of State, not the Attorney General, was the correct claimant in the case.

The substitution is, in theory at least, a relatively straightforward matter.
In practice, however, it will hinge on the MoD and lawyers’ for the tenants - eight barristers in total – reaching agreement on how much money the ministry would have to pay to cover costs to date.

In the TGWU/Prospect case against MoD the unions were awarded costs.

One other key issue still to be resolved in this case is the legal standing of an agreement between the MoD and the Government of Gibraltar, under which the local government would re-house the tenants before they can be evicted. That appears likely to draw the Gibraltar Government into proceedings as a third party.

The case has been adjourned to July 19th.


Related Links:

30 June 2005 - Contractorisation gets big 'NO'

29 June 2005 - Chief Justice gives Union go ahead to challenge cuts

19 April 2005 Unions declare a united front on MoD Contractorisation

12 April 2005 MPs urge Hoon to halt ‘Done Deal’

Gibraltar News Online Contractorisation Poll

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