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« Recycling Guidelines | Main | Suggestions for ruffling the Noise feathers »

January 20, 2003

Class Action update

We are at an important turning point with the RTA Class Action suit. Last night I attended a meeting with the Byron Shire Prog. Alliance. It was an important meeting with a solicitor named Allan Cowley (Stone and Partners) and his associate. This is the solicitor who won against the RTA (which was later appealed to the Supreme Court and therefore lost due to funds) representing the case of a Mr. Bob Johnson.

He had much to say that I will pass on to you. I would like you all to think very seriously about if we as a group would like to proceed. It is going to require much of us, both monetarily and otherwise. Please spend some time digesting the information and then respond to me by Jan. 25th with the following information:
1) If you would like to proceed
2) How much you are prepared to donate towards solicitor fees
3) What information you can pull together to give to our solicitor for his research and data collection.

If I do not hear from you (members of the Tyagarah Progress Association and any members of the noise action group), I will assume that you have voted "No" towards continuing our efforts. Your feedback (or lack of it) will instruct me how best to represent you.

WHAT WE CAN DO:
There are several ways in which we (BSPA) could proceed in litigation. Allan recommends that we remain as a whole, a collection of progress associations and form a $2 company that can be the umbrella corporation. That way none of our assets (community halls etc) are at risk.  We can file suit in the following ways:
1) under non-compliance of guidelines
2) nuicence
3) as individual seeking compensation (our and his least favorite because it is anyway the noise we want remedied, not necessarily any money). There has been a recent change of mood around giving so much compensation to claims, the judicial system wishes to break the trend.
4) under section 52 - the Trade Practices Act - where we can prove malpractice.

We can also do injunctive proceedings in "layers" ...that is, first address noise, then address safety, then compensation....depending on our success at each layer.

They suggest staying away from any other group, i.e. council or council staff. Not necessary.

They also suggest in the beginning to rely on our group efforts to pool information around breech of guidelines, rather than pay for expensive outside "experts" to do tests. We can do that later.

WHAT WE ARE UP AGAINST
While we as citizens can sue one another against breech of contract, where the government is concerned, they are legally entitled to change their mind and frankly, do as they bloody please. This then becomes an issue about politics and lobbying our representatives on the State and Federal level, more than just a class action suit.  Skully and the RTA have worked long and hard for years to keep guidelines from moving into legislation for exactly this reason. Therefore, most breeches we can from from the RTA are breech of guidelines, not breech of legislation. They are not responsible for any guidelines breeched as they are non-manditory.

There was a Highway Action group in Sydney who took on Skully and the RTA regarding the M5...a very strong case against them. Odds were that they could win. It went to the Supreme Court where 3 judges preside. All three voted against the group with the statement that Skully and the RTA were above the law. The guideline / legislative loop is meant as a protection device against all these sorts of actions. And there are heavy politics working in the judicial system to add to our demise.

WHAT IT WILL COST
Allen corrected our misinterpretation of our hopes to get probono work. He said that is only taken on by solicitors when there is a clear win and in a case that is somehow morally laden...i.e. a poor family's little girl is run over by the drunk wealthy neighbor.
PIAC, the organization I spoke to you about, that might represent us, will first put our case through an approval process, which takes months, and then decide if they will take us on. A long process and not timely, plus no guarantees that we will get a good solicitor.

Allen would very much like to do the case. Even though the cards are stacked against us, he believes that there is some hope and abhors the idea that this world is turning into a place where governments and large corporate bodies just run over everyone.So philosophically he holds some faith in another way. But he wishes that he be paid. Fair enough. He also would like to take it to a Barrister who would advise us if we have a case at all, before he takes us on. This initial consultation will cost us around $10,000.00. The case after that will cost us around $100,000.00 or more.

This means, as a community, we would need to canvas for donations, do fund raisers etc.

WHAT IT MEANS FROM US
*  We will need to pull money together, lots of it.
*  We will need to work together to provide lots of information for Allen.
*  We will have to proceed also with a large political and media campaign...so would need some efforts from volunteers to help with this also.

OK folks. What do you want to do?

Please reply to Kali kali@byronpublications.com

OK folks. What do you want to do?

Posted at January 20, 2003 12:00 AM

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