Home Money TONY HETHERINGTON: Guilty verdict as Kingston-upon-Thames County Court wouldn’t pay up

TONY HETHERINGTON: Guilty verdict as Kingston-upon-Thames County Court wouldn’t pay up

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What a joke: you won the case but the court keeps the money

Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s star investigator, battling readers’ corners, revealing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those left penniless. Find out how to contact him below.

What a joke: you won the case but the court keeps the money

What a joke: you won the case but the court keeps the money

CI writes: I brought a legal claim for £350 against LG, a household appliance manufacturer, in relation to the warranty on a washing machine.

The firm did not defend the claim and was paid after I retained bailiffs at Kingston-upon-Thames County Court.

The bailiffs collected the payment last November and the money, they say, is now in court.

Despite numerous emails, the money is still pending and the court’s phone is not answered.

I have also sent an email to the claims department of the Courts and Tribunals Service, to no avail.

Tony Hetherington replies: It’s like a bad joke. You file a claim in court and win. The bailiffs collect the money. They give the cash to the court and the court keeps it.

You called the bailiffs on November 1 last year and in mid-December asked them what had happened. Had they managed to collect their money? The bailiffs replied: ‘This was paid on November 15th. If you have not received the money, you should contact the Kingston County Court. The sheriff’s office does not handle payments.’

He emailed the court on Dec. 13 and again the next day. Nobody answered. The bailiffs told him to expect a response within ten working days, otherwise he should try to write to the court. You wrote on January 9. Nobody answered.

After you contacted me, I emailed the court clerk on January 14th. Nobody answered. On January 20 I sent an email again and this time I involved the Ministry of Justice. After all, what good is a justice system that simply doesn’t work?

The Ministry slowly swung into action and it took until February 9 for officials to pressure the court to contact you. An unsigned email explained: ‘On behalf of the Kingston County Court, I can confirm that the money is currently passing through our payment system. Unfortunately, we have moved to a new system which has caused some issues and delays in the payment process.’

I returned to the Ministry. Could I have a comment from Justice Minister Alex Chalk please? On February 13, the Ministry promised me that he would be paid in a couple of days, but on the same day they also told me that his money had been “released” on January 30. Released? After three months in the clutches of the Kingston County Courthouse, I believe he escaped.

Two days passed and his money was still fleeing. Much of the Ministry of Justice’s work has been outsourced to a private company called Liberata, so I contacted them and asked if the staff knew who had their cash. They did it. Within 24 hours, Liberata chief executive Charlie Bruin told me: ‘Liberata manages payments for HM Courts and Tribunals Service, and we can confirm that all necessary procedures were followed with the utmost care and attention. A payment has been disbursed in accordance with contractual requirements.’

Liberata’s boss helpfully explained that his company has no money. The courts ask Liberata to make a payment from the court’s own bank account. So when did Liberata receive the request to hand over his money? It was February 12, almost three months after bailiffs handed him over to court.

On February 19, he received a check for £433, including costs. But this was not the end of the story.

A week ago he received an apology from the Ministry of Justice, on behalf of Minister Alex Chalk. An official explained: “I contacted the court and they informed me that they had problems processing the payment due to problems with the computer system.” I’ve always resisted the phrase ‘Broken Britain’, but sometimes they are the only words that apply.

You would need a swimming pool for this water bill.

AB writes: Thames Water called me out of the blue to tell me I had an unpaid balance of almost £4,400 in my account.

I live in a small north London flat with my wife and two young children, and the charges relate to an “abnormal” meter reading taken by a Thames Water employee in 2020, showing we had used 2,000 units of water.

In fact, our usage is about 100 units a year.

Tony Hetherington replies: In 2020, when he first saw the huge meter reading, he contacted Thames Water and was told an engineer would investigate within days. Of course, no one did, no matter how many times you called.

Then in 2021 he was told Thames Water would amend future bills, with a new starting point. The previous incorrect reading will be ignored. Suddenly, almost three years later, Thames Water resurrected the clearly erroneous reading and again told him an engineer would visit him.

Meanwhile, he claimed you owe £4,494. This time the engineer did appear and, after examining the meter, he explained to me that in order to see the reading on the invoices, a pool would have to be opened.

Thames Water told me: “Our customer services teams investigated and found this was due to an abnormal meter reading.” Your account has been recalculated and the result is that you now have a credit of £500.

If you believe you are a victim of financial irregularity, please write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email tony.hetherington@mailonsunday.co.uk. Due to the large volume of inquiries, it is not possible to provide personal responses. Please only send copies of the original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.

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