L & J Rawlinson v Cllr Christian Vassie

What an answer to prayer!

It has not been widely known in our church for legal reasons, but a few of us have been praying for Len and Jenny Rawlinson who are part of our church.

The first I knew of trouble was when visiting Jennifer and Len at their home. I said, “What’s happened here?” I could see that their neighbour had built an extension to his house. I said, “He’s built it over into your garden. How did he get that past the planning committee?”

At that time I didn’t know he was on the planning committee.

They told me that since their neighbour, City of York Councillor Christian Vassie, had built his extension he was now disputing where the boundary lay. I was not surprised, as though I had been startled to see where the extension came to, I had no idea how much farther the foundations went.

It was after that visit that I started to hear of the distressing things happening to my friends. On one occasion plants were dug up from “their” garden in an area he was claiming as his own, but which had been tended by Len and Jenny for years. After the police were called Cllr Vassie admitted he had done it and produced the plants. Another time he glued a letter on the window of a car parked on “their” drive where cars had been parked for years, again claiming the area was his. I don’t know what sort of glue he used but they had great difficulty getting it removed.

The Rawlinsons have tried repeatedly to resolve the matter without going to court. I thought they were very generous when, early on, they offered a boundary line to Cllr Vassie which would have legitimised his house extension. He rejected this. Yet it is this boundary, offered to him about six times in the last three years , which he has now accepted.

One of his tactics which particularly distressed them, was that he kept sending loads of legal sounding letters. His letters came thick and fast. I thought his letters were mischievous and designed to incur costs for the Rawlinsons. They had to have each of them replied to by their solicitor. I noted that as he tended to not reply to letters from their solicitors, many reminder letters had to be sent to him, heaping more costs on the Rawlinsons. I said all along that I thought that was his tactic, hoping the costs alone would make them give in.

I know of one occasion Cllr Vassie got the City of York Council’s legal department to write a an intimidating letter to them. I found out about the letter and made a formal complaint to the Council. I asked why the City of York Council legal department were getting involved in this private boundary dispute. I asked if they would send letters at public cost on my behalf should I need legal help some day. They put up a spirited defence of their conduct but I concluded they were embarrassed to discover what they had unwittingly got involved in.

The Rawlinsons had experienced some criminal damage to their property and reported a number of instances to the police. They feared more. To protect their property they had a CCTV installed pointing towards their gate. This is what Cllr Vassie got the Council’s legal department to act over, claiming it was viewing into his house and affecting his council business!

We had expected the recent court case would at last resolve the boundary, but the day before the hearing Cllr Vassie accepted the boundary offer that the Rawlinsons had made six times during the last three years.

The court matter was then for the judge to decide how cost should be apportioned. Cllr Vassie’s tactics had caused the Rawlinson’s costs to mount up. Pronouncement of the verdict was on Friday during which the judge said Cllr Vassie’s letters were arrogant and aggressive. He said Vassie had “dragged his feet” in the matter so adding to costs.

Cllr Vassie has been given 28 days to pay over £22,500 to the Rawlinson’s, which is about half of their costs.

I am sure they feel vindicated, but they are still out of pocket to over £20,000 (the cost they have to bear) and they still have to look at that house extension.

The question I have is, “Will they get their money?”

See the report in the York Evening Press.

15 thoughts on “L & J Rawlinson v Cllr Christian Vassie

  1. Vassie sounds like a bully and a scoundrel, makes you wonder WHAT is going through some people’s minds.

  2. I think he has brought the council into disrepute. Can you advise the Rawlinsons to complain to the Standards Board please? He does not deserve to be on the council.

  3. For the record Cllr Vassie has NEVER been a member of a Planning Committee and vigourously disputes this version of events.

  4. When this planning application was determined in 2002 Christian Vassie was not even a member of the Council let alone the planning committee.

  5. The York Libdems have submitted a comment in defence of Cllr Vassie which did not get past moderation as it was too wordy. They have now admitted he was on a planning committee though I think they split hairs by distinguishing between ‘the’ planning committee and area planning committees. They are also concerned that some could draw the conclusion from my post that I believed Vassie himself had approved the planning application. I do not believe that, simply ironic that when I made my exclamation the owner of the extention was a local politician.

    They do not address the comments in the judge’s pronouncent regarding his letters or that he dragged his feet so adding to costs.

  6. The Whole thing is a disgrace, not the kind of thing you expect from a
    politician. I dont care if Mr Vassie was on the planning commitee or not
    this is no way for any body to behave.

  7. Councillor Vassie is the Liberal Democrat’s parliamentary candidate for York at the next general election.
    As the judge presiding over this case described Vassie as an “arrogant and aggressive” man who deliberately “dragged his feet” over legal correspondence (presumably in an attempt to force the Rawlinson’s to pull out of their action amid spiralling legal costs), do the Liberal Democrats really think he is suitable MP material when he has fallen so markedly below the standard expected of a local councillor?
    I find his behaviour in this matter a cause for deep concern, and I would urge others who feel the same to ensure Vassie’s political opponents are reminded of this case, and his role in it, come the next general election. Perhaps letters of concern over his parliamentary selection addressed to the Liberal Democrats’ national HQ in Cowley Street, London are also in order. Events in the shires, even events as unsavoury as these, often go unreported in the capital.
    Finally, if Vassie is declared bankrupt as a result of this hearing, I believe he will be legally unable to stand as an MP.

  8. I think it is disgusting that a councillor should act in this fashion, let alone to a member of his own constituency (regardless of whether they voted for him).

    One of the things that disturbs me the most is the fact that he was able to use council resources (specifically that of the legal department but others may well have been involved) as part disagreement with the Rawlinsons.

    It may be of interest to people to read the York City Council Members Code of Conduct document at this location:
    http://democracy.york.gov.uk/Published/StdDataDocs/1/2/3/0/SD00000321/$NewMembersCodeofConductfrom010807.doc.pdf

    It does state (in brief) that this document only applies when conducting council business, however part b in the excerpt quoted below should surely apply with regards to the letters from the councils legal department?

    “2. (1) Subject to sub-paragraphs (2) to (5), you must comply with this Code
    whenever you—
    (a) conduct the business of your authority (which, in this Code,
    includes the business of the office to which you are elected or
    appointed); or
    (b) act, claim to act or give the impression you are acting as a
    representative of your authority,”

    Further, I have noticed that, apart from in this blog entry, nothing seems to have been reported as to the fact that the boundary dispute was apparently only the latest action in a series of problems between the 2 parties. What is also noticeable is that a boundary dispute can be a very costly and time-consuming court case. Taken from the following site:
    http://www.boundary-problems.co.uk/

    “There is no authority that can step in and tell you and your neighbour – quickly, cheaply and unequivocally – exactly where your boundary is. There is one authority, the County Court or the High Court, than can work out for you – at great cost of both time and money – where your boundary is.”

    The advice given on the site is:

    “If you want to resolve your dispute without unnecessary expenditure of time and money it is essential that you and your neighbour:

    * remain on amicable terms throughout;
    * accept that neither of you actually knows precisely where the boundary is;
    * work together to understand (with the help of this web site) how the system of general boundaries operates;
    * ascertain from each other the factors that have led to the dispute;
    * negotiate with each other a settlement that mitigates those factors, and if necessary
    * have Land Registry record in an appropriate manner the position of the boundary that you have agreed upon.

    It would appear from this blog that the Rawlinsons tried to do this to no avail.

  9. Like Graham, I know about the background to this case, and can understand why Mr Vassie would want to dispute these events; it puts him in a very bad light. However, it appears to me that his more unpleasant actions were ignored by the Press. As you rightly point out he seems to have committed several criminal acts. I believe this matter was never really about a boundary dispute; but was simply a case of a vindictive bully abusing his power (An independent third parties report and the Judges own description of Mr Vassie as ‘aggressive’ and ‘arrogant’ can not be ignored).

    From the political point of view, the real scandal is the fact that Council resources (funded by tax payers that include Mr and Mrs Rawlinson) were used to aid the bullying. Why for example did the head of legal services write a threatening letter to Mr and Mrs Rawlinson about, what they later admitted, was a private matter? Why did they not take a look at the CCTV Camera before writing the letter? If they had it should have been obvious the claims they were making about its abilities were untrue. How did the Head of Legal Service come to misquote the Law? I found the personal comments she made particularly disturbing and I suspect libellous. I hope now that Mr Vassie has been found out they they will be offering an unreserved apology.

    Finally, I’d also like to point out that a document Mr Vassie submitted to the court in his defence makes it clear that the Lib Dem party (both at national and local level) knew what was going on at least two years ago. In particular it was pointed out to them that Mr Vassie appeared to be deliberately running up Mr Rawlinson’s legal costs. (I now see that Graham independently came to exactly the same conclusion.) Rather then try and resolve the situation the Lib Dems have made him their candidate for the next general election! We’ve seen how he’s used the resources of the council against people who disagree with him. Can you image what mischief he could inflict if he were an MP?

    Prior to these ‘incidents’ I’d always voted Lib Dem, but after what I’ve seen I do not trust trust Mr Vassie. I will not voting for him or his party again and I’ll be strongly encouraging others to do the same.

  10. Is it this blog that was mentioned in the York Press article on 13/9/07 entitled ‘Disputed boundary councillor hits back’?

    Could it be this site Cllr Vassie means when he is quoted as saying,
    “We are also aware that there have been some scurrilous blogs posted on the internet…”?

    Surely not! Scurrilous means ‘grossly or obscenely abusive’ and nowhere in the post or the comments has anyone stooped to that.

    I had not been aware that Mr Vassie is the Liberal Democrat’s parliamentary candidate for York at the next general election. That horrifies me.

  11. I find this all very frightening. If Mr Vassie has glued notices to his neighbours cars, then hasn’t he committed criminal damage and shouldn’t he be prosecuted?

    If he has dug up someone else’s plants and flowers (even if they are on disputed land) knowing that they belong to another, and with the intention of not returning them, then hasn’t he committed theft?

    If he has been found to be in the wrong by the courts, then surely the letters he has sent were not asserting his lawful rights, but were closer to attempts at harassment?

    What worried me most of all was that if the Judge’s assessment was accurate, and Mr Vassie really was dragging his feet, incurring more costs for the other side, then what was his purpose in this? Was he hoping that he would eventually bankrupt them so that he could buy their property at a reduced price?

    What I would like to know is, did the Rawlinson’s end up with more land than they started with? It sounded to me as though they had lost land, and had very generously offered to give it up, before they even went to court.

    This makes me very angry. If the courts have found Mr Vassie at fault, then surely he should have to pay the full legal costs, and compensation?

    It begs the question, if Mr & Mrs Rawlinson had not offered the compromise before they went to court, would the judge have offered the same settlement? Or would Mr Vassie have ended up with a much smaller back garden?

    I can see that Mr Vassie is left with a very difficult choice to make, pay up, and try to brazen it off, or go bankrupt and lose his chance at becoming an MP.

    I’ve been voting Lib Dem for years, but I won’t again. If the party cannot deal with a rogue Councillor quickly and effectively, then they cannot run the country.

    I tried to add my comments to the article on the Evening Press website, but the option was not there. Never mind, word of mouth is spreading fast on this one. I think I might even add it to my facebook.

  12. Pingback: TheMorningFlight.com » Vassie Paid Up

  13. Mr Vassey has tried to post a comment of his own but it did not get past moderation as he began by accusing me of an “apparently malicious attempt to slur” him. Not nice, and something I deny.

    Put simply, he disputes some of the details of the boundary dispute.

    Mr Vassey does not deny accepting an out of court settlement. He claims the Rawlinsons have agreed not to pursue alleged claims of harassment or criminal damage against him as part of that settlement. However I do not think he is immune from action as any decision to prosecute such criminal matters would not be their decision. If the police do decide to take action, I do not see how the Rawlinsons could refuse to give evidence.

    I will not detail his accusation concerning the sincerity of those who have posted comments here, but he ends by saying, “God will judge who has told the truth.”

    He makes no mention of the comments of the judge presiding over this case who described Vassie as an “arrogant and aggressive” man who deliberately “dragged his feet” over legal correspondence.

  14. A few days ago I received another comment for this post but didn’t let it go through moderation.

    I have decided that this one has gone on long enough. As far as I know the matter is now over and Vassie paid up.

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