The High Court in London has adjourned for a second time Rathlin Energy’s attempt to make a bankruptcy order against an anti-fracking campaigner.
The company is seeking £34,000 from Ian Crane in legal costs dating back to an earlier court case, as well as £3,000 in interest.
A bankruptcy hearing on 23rd December 2015 had been adjourned until today to allow Mr Crane, who speaks and broadcasts about fracking, to challenge the costs.
But Registrar Ms Sally Barber said that adjournment had not been long enough to allow Mr Crane to get legal advice. She gave him another eight weeks to apply to set aside the costs judgement.
Mr Crane said after the hearing he was “very happy” with the outcome.
The case dates back to June 2014 when opponents of Rathlin Energy’s operations in East Yorkshire built a structure known as Crawberry Castle (see picture). It blocked access to the company’s Crawberry Hill exploration site, near Beverley.
Rathlin Energy asked the High Court for permission to remove the structure. Mr Crane was one of four people named as defendants in that case. He said he had got involved to try to get the hearing moved from London to Hull because of the local interest in it.
A judge granted a possession order and in July 2014 bailiffs evicted protesters and removed Crawberry Castle. Rathlin then sought to recover the costs of the case from Mr Crane and other defendants.
“Bakruptcy order should be made today”
This morning, the court was told that documents, requested by Mr Crane at the hearing before Christmas, had been sent by Rathlin Energy’s solicitors on 7th January and did not arrive until 11th January 2016.
Tom Shepherd, for Rathlin Energy, said a bankruptcy order should be made today because Mr Crane had already been served with these papers.
But Mr Crane said this was untrue. The court heard that he did not receive the original bill of costs. Rathlin’s legal team then sought a default costs certificate, which did not take into account his objections.
Registrar Barber said:
“The length of the adjourned was a little short, given Christmas was in the intervening period. It would be difficult to lodge anything with the court and difficult to get paid advice, let alone free advice”.
She told Mr Crane:
“These difficulties, it seems, have been compounded by only getting the requested information last week.”
“You should have a fair opportunity to set aside that default costs certificate.”
Registrar Barber advised Mr Crane to seek free legal advice. “You do not want to be tripped up on a technicality”, she said.
The case continues on 16th March 2016.
Post updated at 19.30 on 20/1/16 to clarify the reason for the bankrupty hearing