Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Court excludes six from Stepney mosque

The trustees of a ‘portakabin’ mosque in Stepney have succeeded in excluding six worshippers from their premises but have racked-up a £100,000 legal bill in doing so.

The bill is being paid using £600,000 of funds raised to build a new mosque.
Despite ordering the exclusions, High Court Judge Elizabeth Slade accepted that the mosque’s trustees could have initiated the legal action to silence legitimate complaints about how the mosque has been run.

But she said that the allegations made by the mosque’s trustees – that they were afraid of the defendants – should be treated as legitimate at least until they went to trial.

She said: “The claimants have established a serious issue to be tried in respect of the allegation of trespass against each of the respondents to these allegations. “

But she said: “In my judgement there is likely to be considerable factual dispute as to whether the trustees had cause (to exclude the defendants) or whether they did so for proper purposes. These factual issues will have to be resolved at a later hearing. At this stage I can’t resolve such factual disputes.”

She said: “The history of litigation between parties shows that there is considerable animosity between some directors and defendants.”

Her judgement included the witness statement of three mosque trustees who did not believe that their colleagues’ decision to take legal action was a legitimate or responsible use of mosque funds.

The ‘rebel’ trustees said: “We understand that the reason some trustees are seeking these exclusions is because they feel intimidated by their (the defendants) presence. It is our opinion that any intimidation does not result from the (defendants)

“The trustees are facing allegations of serious wrong doing… it’s our opinion that the matter has been referred to the Charity Commission it therefore seems to us that this (legal action) has more to do with the feelings of (the trustees)… to prevent freedom of expression.”

Judge Slade referred to the view of the ‘rebel’ trustees that the decision to take legal action: “shows how far they (the trustees) are prepared to go in the suppression of criticism of their allegations of wrong doing.“

In her judgement she said that she had weighed up a number of issues including a recent peaceful period at the mosque: “It may be that peace has been preserved because the trustees have stayed away.”

But decided that excluding the defendants was the fairest course until trial, saying that not to exclude them would be consenting to “continuing interference” in the activities of the trustees.
A trial is likely at the beginning of November.

The judge said: “It’s a serious matter to deprive the trespass defendants of access to their chosen place of worship. However, if relief were granted until trial, that would not deprive the trespass defendants of the ability to worship. There are other mosques in the area. It has not been suggested that they would be barred from attending these.

“Taking all these matters into account I grant interlocutory relief restraining defendants 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 from entering or remaining on the specified premises until trial or further order.”

One of the key areas of concern raised by the judge during the hearing was the legitimacy of the trustees decision in revoking the licenses of the defendants to attend the mosque. It became clear during the hearing that the licences were revoked by the mosque’s solicitor, Peter Miller of Bowling & Co.

Also that Mr Miller had drawn up a resolution that was passed in an emergency board meeting at the mosque at 12.30am on August the 25th, designed to ratify his action to withdraw these licences.

Judge Slade said: “In my judgement, in the material before me, there are serious issues to be tried:

a) Whether the licences of the trespass defendants to be on the claimants land was revoked.
b) If so, when and by whom?
c) If by trustees whether they had good cause to do so and did so for proper purposes
d) If by an individual whether he had authority to do so.”

Another area of concern to the judge was what she had previously described as the “appalling” state of Bowling and Co’s provision of paperwork to the defendants’ legal team and to the court.

After Judge Slade’s judgement was read out in court there was a heated discussion about costs.

Previous reports:

1 comment:

  1. Great article.

    Where did they get their money from in the first place. £600,000 or £900,000 is an awful lot of cake sales....