Botton residents forced to give up on court action

Residents and co-workers at Botton have been dealt a blow after they were forced to abandon legal proceedings
Residents and co-workers at Botton have been dealt a blow after they were forced to abandon legal proceedings

Residents at Botton will not be able to appeal against the refusal of an application for a Judicial Review against the charity which operates the village.

Three learning-disabled villagers had previously claimed that their Article 8 human rights had been infringed by Camphill Village Trust (CVT), but their case was twice refused in the courts on the basis that their claim was not arguable.

Plans to appeal against the decision again have been abandoned following a change in circumstances which means that the Legal Aid criteria for continuing to fund the appeal no longer applies.

Learning disabled residents had originally requested a Judicial Review because CVT planned to make what campaign group Action for Botton describe as “drastic and unwelcome changes to their family lives” without consulting them or taking their wishes and choices into account.

These adaptations were on the brink of being forced through when the initial application was made for a temporary injunction to prevent the implementation of the changes while a full application was heard. The injunction was granted.

However, due to the fact that the charity has given undertakings in parallel legal proceedings that mean the learning disabled appear not to be at immediate risk of losing their shared living arrangement, lawyers acting on behalf of the claimants have had to advise that public funding (Legal Aid) will no longer be available to continue the proceedings.

Reacting to the news, Neil Davidson, chairman of Action for Botton, said: “It is ironic that, apparently, because CVT gave undertakings in one case they escaped having to account for their actions in this second case.”

A separate but related case brought by 23 people including residents’ family members and co-workers in the High Court saw CVT give a temporary guarantee that it would preserve the “cherished family life and living arrangements” for the claimants and other residents for the foreseeable future.

As the co-worker and learning disabled families are remaining together for the time being at Botton, it was decided that there is now therefore no immediate prospect of a breach of the beneficiaries’ right to family life.

Under such circumstances, law firm Bindmans chose to withdraw the case, judging it as no longer meeting criteria that would see it eligible for Legal Aid.

Huw John, chief executive of Camphill Village Trust, revaled that he was pleased, but not surprised by the outcome of the legal action.

“Obviously we are pleased that the threat of this court action has been lifted,” he said

“Like the two judges who have looked in depth at this case previously, we did not consider the claims to have been arguable in court.

“While it is important that everyone feels that they can access justice, the cost to the charity cannot be overlooked.

“The sums spent defending what has ultimately proven to be an unsuccessful claim could have, for example, funded the installation of eight new greenhouses for the propagation of plants, or two brand new minibuses to transport those living in the Botton community.”

Action for Botton were keen to stress that should circumstances change and an imminent threat to the human rights of the claimants develop once again, then residents will have the option to once more make an application for a Judicial Review.