Bowled over by huge court costs

Albion Bowling Club, Sycamore View, Brighouse.
Albion Bowling Club, Sycamore View, Brighouse.

A man who is facing huge legal bills after a five year battle between two warring factions at a Brighouse Social club has described the whole legal system as ‘wicked’.

Andrew Speechley, has been at the forefront of a campaign to keep Albion Bowling Club running after the cash-strapped Blakeborough and Sports Social Club decided to sell the green in 2008.

Enormously costly legal in-fighting between the 
rival factions culminated 
in an Appeal Court ruling 
that the club’s President, Treasurer and Committee were not validly elected at an annual general meeting (AGM) held in July 2011.

Three of the country’s most senior judges accepted Mr Speechley’s arguments that procedures followed at the AGM were fatally flawed as the officials were purportedly elected by a show of hands, rather than by secret ballot as required by the club’s rules.

However, Lord Justice Lewison described that decision as ‘of academic interest only’ - as a fresh AGM was held in March last year, and Mr Speechley had made no challenge to that.

Mr Speechley also convinced the court that he and four others had been ‘unlawfully expelled’ from the club and that they remained members and entitled to express their views and participate in planning its future.

However, in a crushing 
financial blow for Mr Speechley, the Court ordered 
him to pay 90 per cent of the heavy legal costs of the case.

Mr Speechley said he was dismayed at some of the decisions of the Appeal Court and said some of them defy logic.

“They have even ruled on an event that took place after permission to Appeal was given and therefore we had no knowledge of. They have said that the verdict of Judge Rawlings was wrong about the very important and lengthy question of whether the July AGM was legitimate. That means we won that issue in the earlier hearing. It doesn’t hold water, it doesn’t make sense. There can be no logical reason for not adjusting the huge costs to take that into account. I believe there is extreme prejudice and bias against a litigant in person.

“There has been incredible dirty tricks against me and cruel treatment meted out to me as a litigant in person throughout this case.

“I have been refused permission to listen to the transcript. I have been subject to the most appalling arrogant bullying by judges who hate people who represent themselves. They would not hear me or give my words any weight because I am not a legal professional. We have been wickedly let down by the legal system.”

He also said the offers to settle the dispute over the years, even opens ones, were kept from being read out in court by ‘legal trickery’ so it seemed they were belligerent and stubborn.

“It is heartbreaking to be misrepresented in court,” added Mr Speechley and declared the fight is not over and the bowls club can still be saved.

“The law lords have said there must be an AGM shortly and it must be held strictly by the rules. I have written to the solicitors for other side asking them for assurances that bowls club members will be permitted to attend the AGM and stand for the club committee and I have also asked them to take no action to dispose of the bowling green until after that meeting has taken place.

“Now we have to appeal directly to the good members of Blakes club. We know there are huge debts to be repaid but the sale of the St Giles Road football ground would be enough to pay off a huge proportion of the debts and the bowlers have offered to take a mortgage on the bowls club to pay the rest. The club does not need to sell off the green and the rank and file membership can vote against it.

“When something is worth saving you have to keep on trying to save it, and that is what we shall do. That little bowling club is a priceless community asset for Lane Head and the Town.”

At the court hearing judges pleaded for an end to the dispute that has seen the clubs torn apart.

Lords Justice Sullivan and McFarlane, said a further AGM is planned for March or April this year.

And, in a plea for an outbreak of peace, he added: “I should stress that it will be of the utmost importance that the forthcoming AGM is conducted strictly in accordance with the rules and that the paper trail is scrupulously kept, otherwise this unhappy saga will nave no end.”