Council vendetta against publican costs taxpayers £4m
Snooty Fox publican Geoff Monks has been vindicated after being thrown in jail for trumped up charges
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By Sarah Ward
Wronged East Northamptonshire publican Geoff Monks has been paid around £4m in damages after coming to a settlement with the new North unitary.
Monks, 67, who was jailed in 1999 after failing to pay fines for trumped up food safety charges brought against him, has been awarded the money after lawyers advised the authority they would lose the high court battle they were embroiled in.
All meetings about the lawsuit have been held behind closed doors, with the authority’s 78 councillors asked to agree a sum to settle with Monks. The funds will come out of the authority’s reserves and be paid this financial year.
The latest legal action began in 2019, with the former East Northamptonshire Council failing to deal with the matter before it closed down last April.
NN Journal exclusively revealed the legal action last summer, after councillors had been silenced about talking about the deal, being told there were reporting restrictions on the case (we later discovered none had been imposed by the court) and told to keep the financials confidential.
The authority, which is led by Conservative Cllr Jason Smithers, also did not release a public statement when the agreement was signed with the former publican, which is believed to have happened just before Christmas, and has not made any statement as yet.
Monks gave the exclusive news on his victory to Private Eye, which published the story in its edition this morning, as the satirical publication had championed his cause since 1999 in its Rotten Boroughs column.
History of the case
The problems started for Monks when he asked local solicitor Jennifer Lawrence to leave his pub, the Snooty Fox in Lowick following a dispute about a bottle of wine.
The solicitor later alleged she had suffered food poisoning at the Snooty Fox and made a complaint to the Council, sparking its initial investigation.
The final decisions to prosecute Monks in relation to the Snooty Fox and another of his pubs, the Samuel Pepys at Slipton, were made by the then Chief Executive of East Northamptonshire Council, Roger Heath.
In his High Court action Monks alleged that Heath, who left the authority in the mid 2000s, was at the time involved in a sexual relationship with Ms Lawrence. Monk’s legal team says the council did not deny this allegation in its defence however Ms Lawrence has denied an affair or even knowing Mr Heath in an email to NN Journal.* Heath has also disputed Monk’s claim to a national paper.
Monks, who also owned the Vane Arms in Sudborough, was convicted in relation to the Snooty Fox in 2000, despite the presentation of thin and contradictory evidence against him, and was ordered to pay a fine of £13,500 and costs of £8,300. In 2003, when he was unable to pay the fine, Monks was sent to a category A prison, where he was placed in a cell next to the Soham murderer Ian Huntley, who was at the time awaiting trial.
He was convicted in relation to the Samuel Pepys in 2003, although this was later overturned on appeal.
He had to wait until 2015 to see his original conviction relating to the Snooty Fox overturned, following a referral from the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
His legal team say the prosecutions had a catastrophic effect on Dr Monks’ businesses and he was forced to sell all three pubs he owned at a loss. He also lost his home.
He suffered a heart attack while in prison and has experienced serious health issues ever since.
Geraint Thomas, partner at Laytons ETL Global, which advised Monks on his High Court action, said:
“This settlement finally provides full vindication for our client more than 20 years after East Northamptonshire Council began its abusive campaign against him. The impact on his health, finances and wellbeing has been nothing short of devastating, but I hope that today’s settlement will enable him at least to begin to rebuild his life.
“Dr Monks would like to thank everybody who has supported him over the years and helped him to achieve this vindication, including Private Eye magazine, Roger Cook of The Cook Report, Lisa Ackerley, Carol Beardmore, Peter Chaplin, Paul Coles, Peter Efford, Prof Steve King, Richard North and Graham Smith. He would also like to thank his friends Sid, Kev and Garry, and so many kind and concerned supporters over the years who are too numerous to name individually.”
What the accused Jennifer Lawrence has to say
In a statement given to NN Journal Jennifer Lawrence said the allegations against her from Monks are ‘wholly false and defamatory’:
“I have never heard of, I do not know, and I have never had sexual relations with the former CEO of the East Northants Council Roger Heath. I have never had any form of personal relationship, let alone a sexual relationship, with anyone who worked at ENC.
"My only association with this case stemmed from a bout of severe vomiting and diarrhoea which was referred to my doctor. My doctor sent a sample of my faeces to the Kettering Pathology Department for analysis. When that laboratory diagnosed Campylobacter, they had a statutory duty to report the diagnosis to the local council, because it is designated a 'notifiable disease'. The Council then contacted me and requested that I give them information as to where I had eaten for several days prior to my first symptoms. I gave them this information and thereafter I had nothing to do with instigating any investigation or any decision making by the ENC.“
“At no time did I ask, or seek to persuade, the ENC to prosecute anyone.”
What happens next
As part of the settlement North Northamptonshire Council will have to make a public apology in open court to Geoff Monks. It is expected this will happen in the next couple of weeks in London.
*This information was added into the online article on Sunday, January 9 and a further statement from Jennifer Lawrence was added on January 18.
Read our exclusive from this summer here
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