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VIEWS: 16 PAGES: 9

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									                                                             Case Number : 0GL00829

IN THE GLOUCESTER COUNTY COURT

                                                                          Kimbrose Way
                                                                             Gloucester
                                                                              GL1 2DE


                                                                 Date : 24th August 2010

BEFORE:

DEPUTY DISTRICT JUDGE SOLOMON
                       ------------------

BETWEEN:

                           Mrs Margaret Coleman                          Claimant

                                     - and -

                         The British Chelonia Group                     Defendant


                           ------------------

                               JUDGMENT

                           ------------------

                     Mrs Coleman appeared in person
              Mrs Fenwick appeared on behalf of the Defendant

                           ------------------

                                APPROVED

                    Transcribed from the official tape recording by
                             MENDIP MEDIA GROUP
              Chinon Court, Lower Moor Way, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6SS
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                                                                   34 folios in transcript
                                                                2,451 words in transcript
Approved Judgment                                                            Case Number: 0GL00829

DEPUTY DISTRICT JUDGE SOLOMON:

1.     This is a claim made by Mrs Coleman against the British Chelonia Group instituted in

       Court earlier this year. The original claim constituted a variety of claims arising as a result

       of the termination of Mrs Coleman’s membership of the defendant. For reasons which are

       not relevant to today’s Court hearing all of those claims save for the claim for

       reinstatement as a British Chelonia Group member have earlier been struck out essentially

       as having no basis in law and we are therefore left today with the issue of Mrs Coleman’s

       claim for reinstatement as a British Chelonia Group member alone.



2.     I have read and considered a substantial amount of evidence provided to me by both parties

       in relation to this matter. On behalf of the claimant I have read and considered a lengthy

       statement from Mrs Coleman, a shorter statement from Mr Coleman and a bundle of

       documents. On behalf of the defendant I have heard evidence and read written statements

       from Mrs Fenwick, Mr Burgess and Mrs Scott. I have also heard oral evidence from all of

       the parties who have given witness statements in varying degrees today and I have also had

       the opportunity of course of considering cross-examination by both parties of each other’s

       evidence.



3.     Going perhaps back to the basics on this matter Mrs Coleman alleges essentially that in

       breach of contract having been a member of the British Chelonia Group for in excess of

       some 23 years prior to these incidents taking place that in breach of contract and acting in a

       manner that was unreasonable under the terms of the constitution she was expelled from

       the British Chelonia Group in April of 2010. Mrs Coleman in her evidence relied of course


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Approved Judgment                                                          Case Number: 0GL00829

       upon the constitution and the wording of the same and of course on considerable amounts

       of evidence and documents produced during the course of the subsequent investigation if I

       may call it that and termination of her membership.



4.     Essentially Mrs Coleman makes a number of points. She says that she was not given 28

       days notice under the terms of the constitution or allowed 28 days perhaps I could put it

       more correctly to respond under the terms of the constitution. She says that the original

       letter of 5th March was not correctly signed by the chairman or in this case acting chairman

       of the organisation and it was not clear although it subsequently became apparent that at

       that time the chairman was ill and unfortunately unable to sign the letter. She has also

       raised a number of queries in that correspondence regarding the substance of the

       allegations made against her in the letter of 5th March which were four fold. There is also

       perhaps a somewhat more subsidiary issue as to the date of receipt of that letter of 5th

       March by Mrs Coleman which she says was received on 12th March following the

       forwarding of the second copy of that letter on 11th March when it became clear that she

       had not receive the earlier copy forwarded by recorded delivery.



5.     In response to her claim the defendants who were represented by Mrs Fenwick who as I

       understand it is the acting chair of the organisation say that they stand entirely by the

       allegations made in their letter of 5th March. They say that under the terms of the

       constitution they are required to give a maximum of 28 days for a member to provide an

       explanation before proceeding with any expulsion procedure. They explain and deal with

       the question of the illness of the chairman and the subsequent appointment of an acting


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       chair and acting vice chair and say that the claimant is not entitled to further details as she

       requested in hers of 16th March of the allegations made against her but that the constitution

       states that the member must be advised of the nature of the alleged offence rather than the

       specific details.



6.     A number of issues arise from the evidence that I have heard today. The constitution

       which obviously I have read and considered says, “If any member in the opinion of the

       committee acts in a manner injurious to the interests of the good name of the group the

       chair person will be directed to contact the member stating the nature of the alleged offence

       and asking for an explanation.” It goes on to state, “If after a period of 28 days a

       satisfactory answer has not been given the committee will have the power to revoke that

       person’s membership.” It is not of course said that they must revoke the membership and it

       does not give any definition or clarification as to when the 28 days runs from.



7.     In the documentation that the defendant has produced by way of witness statements they

       are clearly suggesting that the 28 days runs from the date of the letter of 5th March 2010.

       That quite clearly cannot be correct. The general principles of course are that any time

       period in law runs from the date upon which someone either receives a document or is held

       to have received a document if it is not clear when the document was received. So that for

       example if a letter is sent by first class post the law would normally suggest that it was

       received some two days later ie in this case on 7th March. However in this case it is clear

       even on the defendant’s own evidence bearing in mind the compliment slip exhibited in the

       claimant’s bundle that they were well aware that Mrs Coleman had not received for


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       whatever reason the letter sent to her by recorded delivery on 5th March and that a further

       copy of that letter was sent to her on 11th March and its acknowledgment by Mrs Coleman

       was received on the 12th.



8.     Therefore in my opinion the interpretation of the constitution should allow Mrs Coleman

       28 days from 12th March to respond to the allegations made against her which does not of

       course expire until 9th April. Even on the defendant’s own case of course the period of 28

       days running from the date of the letter of 5th March expired on 2nd April. Mrs Fenwick

       told me in evidence that because 2nd April was a bank holiday it being in this particular

       year Good Friday it was decided that the matter should be dealt with prior to Easter and

       that the postal ballot papers were forwarded out on or about 24th March. It is clear from the

       evidence that I have seen and the particular documents from the scrutineer appointed to

       check the ballot papers that the ballot papers were all back with the scrutineer by 31st

       March and had been considered by him.



9.     What I do not have and it is unclear to me why it has not been produced by the defendants

       is any documentation confirming what was said to the Trustees when the ballot papers were

       sent out or what in particular they were told to do regarding deadlines or timeframes. It is

       however clear as I have said even on the defendant’s own case that the ballot was taken

       whenever it was it was prior to 31st March which is less than 28 days after the date on

       which the original letter was sent to Mrs Coleman in any event. It therefore appears to me

       that it cannot be correct to say that the defendant has complied with its own constitution in

       allowing the claimant 28 days to provide a satisfactory answer to the queries raised. It does


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       not matter that subsequent to that time or earlier than that time the defendant did not

       consider that any points raised by Mrs Coleman were a satisfactory answer. It is a simple

       bold statement in the constitution, it is one which the defendant has not complied with and

       in my opinion therefore the defendant is in breach of its own constitution and the

       revocation of Mrs Coleman’s membership is invalid.



10.    To deal perhaps with one other issue in a little more detail because clearly that means Mrs

       Coleman is going to succeed in her claim on that one specific basis. I would like to look

       just briefly at the four allegations that were made in the letter of 5th March to Mrs Coleman

       in order that it be on the Court record my views and opinions in relation to that for the

       purposes of any subsequent action which may be taken by The British Chelonia Group to

       seek to expel Mrs Coleman, without wishing to suggest that is what they may wish to do.

       There are four allegations of course contained in the letter. The first allegation relates to

       displaying of a letter on a website. The claimant has said in evidence that she did not

       display that letter and whilst suggestions were made by the defendant in evidence today

       that she should have been able to remove it it appears to be accepted by the defendant in

       their witness statements and it was confirmed of course by Mr Coleman in his statement

       that it was not Mrs Coleman but Mr Coleman who placed the letter upon the website.



11.    If that is the case and the evidence that I have seen today supports that then that contention

       cannot succeed in supporting removal of Mrs Coleman from the group. I also do not think

       that the allegation that Mrs Coleman made one sided allegations about other organisations

       without checking the facts would be enough to constitute her removal from the group. The


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       constitution clearly states that she must act in a manner injurious to the interest of the good

       name of the group and I cannot see on the basis of that bold allegation alone that that in any

       way is injurious to the good name of the group. In relation to the advice given regarding

       micro chipping contrary to DEFRA requirements Mrs Coleman in the forum postings

       which I have read and considered quite clearly confirms that she accepts that she was

       incorrect in her interpretation of DEFRA regulations.



12.     I understand the points made by Mrs Fenwick for the defendant in relation to the

       information that was given. But given that prior to the time of this expulsion and prior to

       the time of course of any subsequent expulsion Mrs Coleman has admitted that she was in

       error. I do not think that could be relied upon as constituting acting in a manner injurious

       to the good name of the group. That leaves of course the defendant only with the

       allegation, the third allegation which is the allegation in relation to making allegations.

       Now in evidence today the defendant has said consistently that alone that allegation would

       not be enough to warrant the removal of Mrs Coleman from the group and has admitted

       that other members have made allegations which were far more serious and have not been

       removed.



13.    I would therefore caution the defendants strongly in relation to any subsequent attempts to

       expel Mrs Coleman from the group if they seek to rely upon similar evidence to that which

       was earlier relied upon and which we have heard evidence on today both in my opinion and

       in my Judgment they would be unlikely to succeed. I would also stress that whilst the

       constitution states that a member must be given details of the nature of the alleged offence


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       it is quite clear that Mrs Coleman in her letter of 16th March requested further details of the

       allegations in order that she could respond to them. I think it disingenuous of the defendant

       to simply say that they will not enter into further communications and will not give further

       details of the allegations which in the interests of justice means that the claimant cannot

       respond to them and cannot provide information to the Trustees within the committee in

       order they can consider whether or not to revoke her membership.



14.    Now I accept that these points are entirely obiter in that my decision is based solely upon in

       the first instance the time limits contained within the correspondence. But I make them so

       that as I say they are on the record in relation to any subsequent attempts which may be

       made by the defendant to remove the claimant from its membership. I therefore find for

       Mrs Coleman in relation to the sole issue before the Court this afternoon that her expulsion

       from the British Chelonia Group was invalid and that therefore she effectively remains a

       member as at today’s date. That is my Judgment. Does anyone have any issues?

       Questions?



Mrs Coleman                I have an issue of costs please, Ma’am.

DDJ Solomon                Yes.

Mrs Coleman                £150 to bring the case and £25 for today’s hearing.

DDJ Solomon                Was that the hearing fee? The £25.

Mrs Coleman                That £25 was for today’s hearing.

DDJ Solomon                Yes.

Mrs Coleman                If I may please and also my travel.


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DDJ Solomon                Any expenses for attending today?

Mrs Coleman                Yes it’s 40 miles plus £5 parking.

DDJ Solomon                So what are you seeking to claim?

Mrs Coleman                40p is the standard I can’t do the maths.

DDJ Solomon                I cannot do 40 times 40 I have got a calculator.

Mrs Coleman                Sorry for that.

DDJ Solomon                £16 plus £5 parking is £21.

Mrs Coleman                Thank you very much.

DDJ Solomon                £21 expenses. So that is a total of £196 in Court fees and expenses payable

                           by the defendant to the claimant within 14 days. Anything further?

Ms Fenwick                 No thank you.

DDJ Solomon                Thank you very much. Good afternoon.




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