Northern Ireland

Judge brands planning challenge woman 'discourteous'

Scales of Justice

A judge has said that a woman who repeatedly failed to appear in court for her own legal challenge showed "contemptuous discourtesy".

Ciara Patricia Thompson is challenging planning permission for a housing scheme in Bryansford in County Down.

The judge dismissed her request to be represented by her father because she claimed to be shy and "tongue-tied".

He said this was too slender a basis to depart from the system dealing with rights of audience in court.

'No proper explanation'

In his judgement, Mr Justice Treacy also noted the belief by others that Ms Thompson's father was a "major player" in groups trying to prevent development in Newcastle in County Down.

Although she has been granted leave to apply for judicial review, her lawyers came off record earlier this year.

The case was then listed for mention at the High Court on three dates in September and October at which Ms Thompson failed to attend.

Mr Justice Treacy said: "The court was not informed that she would not be appearing and no proper explanation has been furnished for her non-appearance.

"Aside from the contemptuous discourtesy to the court, management of a case is very difficult when the unrepresented personal litigant does not even bother to appear."

Ms Thompson emailed to provide a new address and set out her intention to locate a pro bono legal representative or advance it on a self-representation basis using a friend.

She then apologised for her non-appearance and requested that her father be allowed to speak for her as she was "too shy and tongue tied".

Audience

A further application was made for rights of audience for her father or, if refused, that he be allowed to act as a so-called "McKenzie Friend" who can give moral support and advice to personal litigants.

Dismissing both applications, the judge said that whilst he got the impression that she would have preferred not to be in court and appeared to be under the influence of her father, he did not consider that she was too shy or tongue-tied to have been unable to represent herself.

He added: "Her demeanour and presentation in court and the content and source of the emails convey a very clear impression that this applicant is a conduit for her father, who she notes in her email of October 21 has been involved in many major developments during his career and was not anti-development."

The judge also refused to alter a protective costs order which limits her potential legal bill to £10,000 should she ultimately lose the judicial review case.