Monthly Archives: February 2012

“Charity Begins At Home” – But Is the Rangers Charity Foundation in Breach of the Law?

The Rangers Charity Foundation (RCF), established in 2002, has since then a proud record of helping many charitable causes.

The charity’s own website details many of these admirable activities.

The Scottish Charity Register entry for the RCF records the object and purposes of the charity.

Its object is as follows:-

“The Trustees shall hold the Trust Fund and the income of it to pay and apply the same to or for the benefit of or in furtherance of such purposes, objects or institutions charitable in law and in such proportions and manner as the Trustees shall think fit. In exercising their discretion in terms of this Clause the Trustees shall give primary consideration to the wishes of those persons who gift or lend funds to the Foundation but this proviso shall impose no binding obligation on the Trustees.”

According to the RCF website, the Trustees are Craig Whyte, Martin Bain, John Greig and Jacqueline Gourlay. The website may not be up to date. Mr Bain is of course suing Rangers for breach of contract caused by Mr Whyte’s ill-guarded public comments. Mr Greig resigned as a Director of the football club, complaining about a lack of involvement and transparency. Any meetings of the Trustees might have had just a touch of an unpleasant atmosphere, although I am sure the professionals round the table would put personal differences aside for the goals of the charity.

These issues have not stopped the RCF continuing to support its purposes, which are, as recorded in the Register and on the RCF website:-

  • Prevention or Relief of Poverty
  • Advancement of Education
  • Advancement of Health
  • Advancement of Citizenship or Community Development
  • Promotion of Equality and Diversity
  • Relief of Those in Need By Reason of Age, Ill Health, Disability, Financial Hardship or Other Disadvantage

Over the last seven years, the RCF’s income has totalled in excess of £1.9 million, much of which has gone out to support a whole range of worthy and deserving projects, both in the local area surrounding Ibrox, and wider afield too.

As the RCF website records:-

“The Rangers Charity Foundation (Scottish Charity Number SC033287) exists to bring Club, supporters, staff and players together in a unique way to help make the world of difference to thousands of lives through a range of charitable work.  Being a champion of charitable giving is our goal, and since our creation in 2002 we have donated over £910,000 in cash awards and over £1,423,000 of in-kind support to hundreds of groups and individuals, making a combined total of over £2.3 million.”

For this season the RCF’s focus is as follows:-

“For Season 2011/12 the Rangers Charity Foundation worked with Community Partner Erskine, National Charity Partner The Prostate Cancer Charity and International Partner, UNICEF to deliver significant projects that provide a lasting legacy and make a real difference where support is needed most.   For the Foundation, working with each organisation to really understand and support their key aims and objectives is as important as fundraising and handing over a cheque at the end of the relationship.”

The Rangers Charity Foundation is a very good thing, which has done many good works. Continue reading

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Filed under Administration, Bain v Rangers

Rangers’ Competition – Spot the Administrators’ Notice! (No Prizes Will Be Awarded)

Remember the requirement for the Rangers website to disclose that the company was being run by the administrators?

Have a look at Rangers.co.uk website – I have posted a screenshot from the front page below

 

 

Nothing apparent there – let’s scroll down the page a bit…

 

 

 

Still nothing…

 
OK – scroll down to the very bottom of the page…how about that?

 

 

You will need to click on the above image to make it full size.

 

Final clue – you will see some very small type, in black on a dark blue background in the bottom left corner of the page…
Highlight it (if you are actually on the website as opposed to my JPEG) and the magic words appear!

 

(In Administration) (“the Company”)
The affairs, business and property of the Company are being managed by the Joint Administrators, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, who act as agents of the Company and without personal liability. They are both licensed by the Insolvency Practitioners Association.

It’s good to see the operators of the website fulfilling the letter, if not perhaps the spirit, of the “publicity” requirements of administration!

I suspect that there must be some secret competition amongst administrators to see who can comply with the rule, but in the most subtle fashion.

It reminds me of a section from the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, regarding planning notices being on public display. Mr Prosser, from the Council, has just told Arthur Dent that the plans re demolition of his house have been on display for nine months.


ARTHUR DENT:
Yes! I went round to find them yesterday afternoon. You’d hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to draw much attention to them have you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.

MISTER PROSSER:
The plans were on display.

ARTHUR DENT:
Ah! And how many members of the public are in the habit of casually dropping around the local planning office of an evening?

MISTER PROSSER:
Er – ah!

ARTHUR DENT:
It’s not exactly a noted social venue is it? And even if you had popped in on the off chance that some raving bureaucrat wanted to knock your house down, the plans weren’t immediately obvious to the eye were they?

MISTER PROSSER:
That depends where you were looking.

ARTHUR DENT:
I eventually had to go down to the cellar!

MISTER PROSSER:
That’s the display department.

ARTHUR DENT:
With a torch!

MISTER PROSSER:
The lights, had… probably gone.

ARTHUR DENT:
So had the stairs!

MISTER PROSSER:
Well you found the notice didn’t you?

ARTHUR DENT:
Yes. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard”. Ever thought of going into advertising?

 

Have we found the administrators’ publicity equivalent, though without the leopard of course!

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Filed under Administration, Alleged Humour, Insolvency Act 1986, Rangers

Open Justice Week – Rent Arrears Eviction Cases – The Moral is “Make Sure You Seek Help” #oj_uk

Some people get the glamorous jobs – this week reporters and members of the public will be writing about the “in court” experience in the High Courts of Scotland, in the Appeal Court in Edinburgh, and from Jury Trials across Scotland.

However, I am reporting from the civil court at Hamilton – situated within an office building in a business park, about 500 yards from the main court building. Whereas Hamilton Sheriff Court, proper, is a fine old sandstone building, renovated to a 21st century standard, the civil court does not look, even from inside, too much like a courthouse.

Inside Court “A” however, on this Monday morning, there are people for whom the most important event of their year is taking place – this court is dealing with eviction cases, mainly for rent arrears.

The courtroom itself is modern, but not overly large. There is seating for about 30 people in the public area, and room round the court table for around eight lawyers.

As the clock ticks to 10 am, the Court Officer busies himself by taking the names of the few members of the public who have come to court for their cases. This will allow them to be dealt with first.

This is important as, according to the court list, there are 174 tenancy cases to be dealt with in this courtroom between now and 2.30 pm (allowing for a 1-hour lunch adjournment at 1pm). This is actually a low number of cases – the tenancy court can have as many as 250 cases calling in it some Mondays. Because the local authorities can write in advance to the court asking for continuations of the cases where this in uncontroversial, not all the 174 matters will need to be dealt with individually today, but many will.

The most common names on the court lists belong to the two local authorities, part of whose boundaries fall within the jurisdiction of Hamilton Sheriff Court, being North and South Lanarkshire Councils.

Hamilton is one of the busiest courts in Scotland, covering the major towns of Hamilton, Motherwell, Wishaw and East Kilbride, together with smaller towns and villages across a wide area.

As well as the cases for the Councils, there is a sprinkling of actions raised by Housing Associations. Today there do not seem to be any cases on the lists raised by private landlords.

The lawyers round the table are there exclusively for the Housing Associations and the Councils. Few, if any, tenants engage a private solicitor to act for them. This is because of the perceived difficulties in being granted Legal Aid for these cases, and also because lawyers feel that it is uneconomical for them to act.

Tenancy cases like these are treated as “Summary Cause” cases, meaning that procedure is more straight forward than “Ordinary” procedure, but the fees paid for the work are less too. This is despite the importance of the cases to the tenants. They run the risk of homelessness for them and for their families. However, that importance does not result in lawyers being paid what they see as a proper rate for the job.

There is one person there who is acting for a number of the tenants – the In Court Adviser. His role is to provide assistance to people in connection with cases such as these, and at Hamilton anyway, this extends to representation. The In Court Adviser works hand in hand with the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, which manages the service.

The Money Advisers and generalist advisers in the CAB will refer cases to the In Court Adviser, as will the local Money Advice centres.

The In Court Adviser’s work for the tenancy court is rather like an iceberg – much of the last couple of days of the previous week is spent on the phone to the local authorities seeing whether they are looking for decrees for eviction in any of the cases where the In Court Adviser has already become involved. If the tenant has reached an agreement to pay, has this been maintained? If the tenant has applied for Housing Benefit, has this been awarded?

The In Court Adviser has been in touch with his clients to tell them if they need to come to court today. He has only needed a couple of clients in, and after they have shown up at his office within the court, he has been able to persuade the Council representatives to give them more time to sort out their problems.

The In Court Adviser sits at the court table, the only person there not wearing a gown.

In the court, thankfully, there are not 174 members of the public in attendance. There are in fact only half a dozen as the clock gets to 10 am.

At that stage the Court Officer, who has already given his list to the Clerk, goes off to get the Sheriff and leads him on to the bench, shouting “Court – all rise” as he does so. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, General Scots Law Rambling, Open Justice Week

What Is Open Justice Week? #oj_uk

Open Justice Week is a campaign to shed some light on the “unreported” courts in the UK.

You can find the website here.

It is the brainchild of James Doleman who blogged Tommy Sheridan’s perjury trial. In doing so he showed what real court reporting should be, and which the media today, because of pressures on space and resources, cannot afford to take the time to do.

On the downside, James’ blog was one of the main motivations for me to start my own blog. Therefore James is to blame, indirectly, for each 7,500 word piece on Schedule B1 of the Insolvency Act I inflict on my reader!

In a piece published in the Guardian last week, James explained what Open Justice Week is about.

“We want to create a snapshot of where British justice is in 2012, and we want as many people as possible to join us.”

He argues that social media and the Open Justice project could be an opportunity to “almost reinvigorate and recreate” court reporting. James describes in the piece his shock at visiting Glasgow sheriff court when it was dealing with evictions. “It’s like something out of Charles Dickens. They are throwing up to 70 people an hour out of their homes. It’s just like bang, bang, bang… one after the other. We want to open up the courts to public scrutiny.”

James is blogging on the Open Justice website about the HMA v McKenzie and Muirhead case (better known as the alleged letter bombs to Neil Lennon and others case). You will not read better coverage of the trial than on the Open Justice Blog.

Jon Robbins, who wrote the Guardian piece, says “It seems to me that ‘open justice’ can shine a light on the real experience of ordinary people in the courts.”

Read the Open Justice website and the links there. Why not see about popping to your local court to do some reporting?

It’s is my plan to post a couple of opieces connected with the Project. The first will be here in a short while.

You can follow the Project on Twitter at #oj_uk.

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Filed under Blogging, Courts, HMA v McKenzie and Muirhead, Open Justice Week

Early on Day 13 of Rangers’ Administration – The Catch Up Service Continues – Suing, Policing and Singing

Just in time for whatever new stories come from the Sunday papers, I can catch up with a couple of loose ends from Friday.

(Sunday Morning Edit – on the basis that the Sunday papers appear to have nothing else in them other than Rangers, I will follow the new developments up later – but I have typed this stuff, so it’s going in!)

 

Mr Whyte and the BBC

First of all, I noted a tweet from Chris McLaughlin of the BBC which quoted Craig Whyte. Could Mr Whyte have been speaking to the BBC?

If so, and if he regains control of Rangers from the administrators, then he will have to fire himself, as per his pledge in October to the BBC!

And talking of the BBC, it has now been confirmed that a writ has been served on it at the instance of Mr Whyte. It seems that the court action is against both the BBC and Robert Burns, Head of Investigations at the Insolvency Service.

I confidently predicted that this court action would never see the light of day. As is often the case, I was wrong!

Formal confirmation as to whether the action has been raised in England or Scotland is awaited. As I have said many times, any action should be raised in England as the financial pressures on the defender to settle are so much higher, and the “no win, no fee” provisions so much more favourable for claimants.

Now that an action has been raised, all I can say is that I am even more astonished.

There are two essential elements in a damages claim, whether for injury to person, reputation or business. There must be a legal wrong committed against the claimant and there must be injury.

In a defamation or libel case, the injury relates to damage to reputation. Has the repute of the person been lowered amongst right thinking people?

When Lord Archer, for example, was at the height of his fame and political prominence, the media was afraid to write about him in a less than positive fashion. He was known to be litigious, and had won a huge award from the Daily Star for libel in 1987. Lord Archer was a prominent and powerful man whose reputation, despite being chipped away at round the edges by Michael Crick and by Private Eye, was still very high.

However, once he was convicted in 2003 of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and gaoled for four years, things changed. The media could effectively write anything it wanted about Lord Archer because his reputation could hardly be lower. If he sued and won in a libel case, the defence would ask the jury to consider how much the reputation of a convicted perjurer was worth. It remains possible for a jury in such a case to find that a person has been libelled, and to award one penny by way of damages.

In October 2011, when the BBC programme was published, Mr Whyte’s reputation was still high. His team had won the league, and despite a looming tax decision, which was nothing to do with him (as far as causing it was concerned) and a couple of trivial disputes with lawyers and ex-employees, he would have been seen as a fine and upstanding member of Scottish society.

We move forward a mere four months and matters are so different.

Mr Whyte has been condemned by a Sheriff for giving evidence described as “wholly unreliable”. His company has been forced into administration. It appears that, since taking over less than one year ago, a further £15 million in outstanding tax liabilities has been accrued. He has been seen either to have been incorrect in statements he has made, or else has said things which turn out to be the opposite of the truth.  He has been revealed as being listed under different names in the Companies House Register, and with differing dates of birth.

It is not easy to think of someone whose reputation in Scotland is now so poor.

Ands yet it is at this time that he raises court proceedings?

One wonders if, like the late Robert Maxwell, Mr Whyte viewed the court action as a way of gagging the media. If he did, he has found out that he required a much bigger gag, and many more of them!

Will this claim ever get to court for a full hearing? I don’t think so. He must be funding it privately (there is no way he can go with a no win, no fee deal here) and these cases are very expensive.

It would not surprise me if, in a few months, there is quiet word that the action has been dropped.

As I have said before, I did not see Mr Whyte winning. Now even if he wins, he will lose! Continue reading

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Filed under Administration, BBC, Civil Law, Craig Whyte's Companies, Defamation, Football, Rangers, SPL