Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rough justice

Our tribulations, such as they were last week were related to a lawsuit. I need to be careful what I say here in that things are not completely settled yet.

The background is this: when our extension was being built all was going well, a price agreed, work going to plan, until the builder came to us midway through the job to say there was “a shortfall”. In essence he had made an estimating error, hadn’t read the detailed spec and was £15000 down on the job and wanted us to pay for it. For all that we are well paid this was a big piece of work for which we had saved up for five years and budgeted and borrowed. We told him exactly this and that any extra work would be paid for but a contract was a contract.

The job was finished and paid in full when he came to us afterwards demanding an additional £15000 in cash. We told him firmly but politely to get lost. Then the letters started arriving with grave threats of litigation from his solicitors. Then the summons. Then the hours of going through submissions and defences. We thought he had a couple of items that warranted paid – small things adding up to a few hundred pounds and withholding the wages of a worker is a sin. We offered to settle out of court for any additional work he thought he had done. We offered repeatedly and with increasingly generous sums. He was belligerent, he would not move, he wanted his day in court. He submitted quite clearly fraudulent documents into court. He was so stupid that the documents quite demonstrably could not have been produced on the day they were dated (they included items which could only have been known about some six months later than the putative date on the document).

So after half a dozen offers we found ourselves at the doors of Glasgow Sheriff Court. If you have Perry Mason or Rumpole or Judge John Deed in your head, forget it. This was a room about double the size of an average living room with a large table and what looked like an Ikea desk on a dais at one end and a small witness box to one side (again, straight out of MFI), two solicitors and a part-time Sheriff (Note: a Sheriff in Scotland is not a John Wayne character but a judge in second-tier courts)

We sat through two days of the builder in the witness box. He lied. He lied after taking a solemn oath. He lied about the work he had done. He lied about the specifications he had seen. He lied about the shortfall. He lied to such a ludicrous extent that even the Sheriff and his own lawyer couldn’t hide their laughter. By day two the Sheriff was looking out of the window with a glazed expression on his face. After lunch on day two the Sheriff indicated he wanted an end to proceedings or the costs would exceed the sum craved. He was right. The builder managed to hustle some money from us, money we had offered months before to make the whole thing go away, but the costs are extortionate and the whole thing a waste of time. I've delayed submitting my doctoral thesis for over a year, although I think I could have a reasonable stab at a Masters in Contract Law now. I took three days annual leave and cancelled a clinic, two postgraduate teaching sessions and two ward rounds to listen to someone traduce me and my family while lying on oath and all without redress or ability to respond.

We could have avoided it all, but he hustled and hustled to get money out of us to the point where simple human dignity would not allow us to be hustled any more. We’d answer his charges and defend ourselves – stand up to the bully. We ended up shelling out a heap of costs for the privilege of cutting down his demands to somewhere near what we had offered him months before with the added privilege of watching him perjure himself in the dock.

What does all this mean?

Well, not a lot in the great scheme of things. I feel ashamed I failed to protect my wife and family from this man. I feel the system of justice in these matters is an organised form of hustling. There are times when I feel vengeful and I have to remember my Lord’s response in worse circumstances.

More positively I know the Lord walked with me. My Lenten efforts have been rubbish this year as I’ve given in to the emotional pull of it all, but perhaps they are assuaged by listening to false accusations from a lying witness as my Lord did and being unable to make reply. I understand Psalm 23 much better than I did and it is a daily consolation. Job had it much worse.

As I said before, we are not out on the street, we love each other as a family, we are supported by loving family and friends who have rallied to our aid, we are in good health, there is food on the table. In the end a fat bully lied after taking a solemn oath to get some money out of us.

Worse things happen. It probably happens every day in every lawcourt in the land.

To those of you who have prayed for us, God bless you. Holy Mass will be offered for your intentions.

St Nicholas, pray for us.
St John of Capestrano, pray for us.
St Thomas More, pray for us.


Blogger Kindred Spirit said...

"What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his immortal soul?" Yours is clearly the narrow road; the broad road goes to the perjurer, and may God have mercy on him.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Indeed. Pray for the poor fellow. He needs it.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Sandy Grounder said...

Rough "justice" indeed. As you say, the sad thing is that this probably happens every day-and not just in the civil courts. What of those who do not have the strength to stand up to such bullies? I will say a prayer for you and your family.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Innocent Smith said...

Much sympathy and many prayers coming your way. Yes, it is quite a spectacle when you see someone for ther own purposes lying and deceiving. Sort of leaves one with a sense of absurdity.

Thank God, however, it is over.

9:43 PM  
Blogger antonia said...

I prayed for you last week, thanks for letting us know what was happening. It sounds pretty awful and very very stressful indeed.
I am glad it is over.

God Bless

10:20 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

You have nothing to be ashamed of. Some people are like that. Best wishes to you and yours.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Aumgn said...

Goodness, that's always the way isn't it? One tries to act in good faith; getting estimates; drawing up the contract. And then how easily it all comes apart. Not only do you find yourself questioned but you're put through the meat grinder of the legal process. Glad to see you're getting through it.

8:31 PM  
Blogger dillydaydream said...

Given my family's experience of the scottish legal system, my guess would be that you did not have your trouser leg rolled up sufficiently to be heard.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Dilly, don't fuel my West of Scotland paranoia...

I'm pretty sure the Sheriff wasn't a member of the Illuminati or a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite, or whatever....

6:03 PM  

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