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Judge throws out legal costs owed by Dublin great granny over satellite dish

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
90-year-old Anne Rudd
90-year-old Anne Rudd

A judge has thrown out a prosecution against a 90-year-old Dublin woman who faced court and a hefty legal bill for having an “unauthorised" satellite dish on the front of her house.

Great grandmother, Anne Rudd, of St Enda's Road, Terenure, was forced to come to court after she was summoned by Dublin City Council which had sought an order for legal costs.

However, following pleas from her lawyers today that it would be unfair and justice would not served if the pensioner had to pay the expenses, which the council had agreed to reduce from €2,100 to €1,500, Judge John O'Neill dismissed the case.

He said it was a substantial bill and because there were exceptional circumstances he was not going to order her to pay costs.

After her legal victory, she stood outside the courthouse with her daughters Anne Claxton and Teresa Davey and her son Peter Rudd as she told reporters “justice has been done”.

“I have had my family around me, there are women and men who have nobody. It was an oversight,” she explained.

She spoke of her shock at becoming a celebrity. “I could not believe it, me, little me, Australia, England, Wales, San Diego in California, people offered things. Bunches of flowers, money was sent and I gave it to charity. In Wales a man wanted to start up fund.”

Her daughter Anne Claxton thanked the people of Ireland for their good wishes as well as Judge O'Neill, the legal team and the news media.

The 90-year-old was accused at Dublin District Court of failing to comply with an enforcement notice issued on May 28th last telling her she had to remove “the unauthorised satellite dish” along with all associated fixtures and fittings from the facade of her house.

The charge was under Section 154 of the Planning and Developments Acts.

James Cosgrave, a planning enforcement officer with the council, had told Dublin District Court he spoke to the woman in March and told her the dish could not be fixed to the front of her home. The same issue arose with seven other properties in the area, Judge O'Neill was told.

Mr Cosgrave furnished the court with photos and the judge was told the woman had been given until the end of June to move the dish. Mr Cosgrave gave her more time to remove it but that had not been done by the time of his next inspection, on July 21st, after which proceedings commenced

Judge O'Neill was told that Mrs Rudd had first got a warning letter from the council in February. Solicitor, Michael Quinlan, prosecuting, said she had been told then that something had to be done and the proceedings were a result of non-compliance.

Her family had explained to the court last month that their mother would not have known what the letter pertained to but they later learned it was official and arranged to have the dish taken down, the court had heard.

However, by then court proceedings had been initiated. In September, her daughters told the council that €1,500 could be paid.

The case resumed yesterday/today (TUE) and this time Ms Rudd had legal representation of barrister Peter Maguire (instructed by Thomas Loomes and Company solicitors).

They had wanted to help, free of charge, and Ms Rudd  did not avail of her right to look for legal aid.

Mr Maguire argued that it was unfair to ask the pensioner to pay a legal bill she could not afford. She gets €230 a week with which she must pay her water bills, property tax and “has to feed herself, has to clothe herself”, counsel said.

Mr Maguire also said that the costs seemed a small amount of money in comparison to the resources available to the council.

When she was first contacted by the council she did not understand and thought they claimed they owned the house at which she “wrote back to say she owned the house”.

Later, her family read the correspondence from the council and arranged to have the dish taken down, Mr Maguire said adding that it has been removed and “there is no subsisting offence” and there has been compliance with the enforcement notice.

He also said regulations stated that in exceptional circumstances such as these, the judge has discretion in relation to making an order for costs and is not solely a “mouthpiece of the law”.

“The justice of the situation in this case could not be served by imposition of an order for costs,” the barrister argued.