The owners of Mildenhall Stadium say they could face a bill of more than £1.25 million following a Supreme Court decision that says they are liable for a substantial part of the legal costs of a couple who took them to court over noise.
The stadium owners were taken to court by Katherine Lawrence and Raymond Shields who bought Fenlands bungalow, in 2006, about half a mile from the West Row stadium, which opened in 1975. They have said they did not realise how much use the stadium had.
The couple won damages in the High Court in 2010, then lost at the Appeal Court in 2012 but the Supreme court overturned that decision late last year.
The stadium’s lawyers had argued that expecting them to pay the couple’s huge costs under the Access to Justice Act (AJA) was against the European Human Right Act, but on Thursday the Supreme Court decided five to two that the section of the AJA was compatible with the Human Rights Act.
But in his dissenting judgment, Lord Clarke argued that the AJA regime was disproportionate because it did not treat all defendants in the same way.
After the decision stadium owner Dave Coventry said they were liable to pay 60 per cent of the couple’s costs because the stadium had won part of the case. But he said the costs in the original case had been close to £1 million.
“Since then we’ve had the Appeal Court then the Supreme Court,” he said. “The compensation level we’re liable for is about £10,000 but with costs we’re closer to £1.25 million, if not more.
“There’s no money in my pocket, no money anywhere at all. We bought the stadium several years ago and that took everything we had. We still owe more than it’s worth, especially if we can’t run speedway and stock cars there.”
He said he hoped the lawyers for each side would start work on negotiating what the costs were in the next few weeks.
The couple’s solicitor Richard Buxton said: “If only they had done what we asked them to do in 2007 – instead we’ve had a long fight.”
He said the argument that the stadium was there long before they bought the house was ‘wrong in law and always has been wrong’.
“What it boils down to is we had a perfectly proper complaint about the stadium,” he said. “Behind all this is that the local council never controlled this problem.
“When they were forced to act in 2008, they acted inadequately.”
He said there was ‘no point discussing figures’ because the court had resolved a technical issue and now the lawyers had to resolve the rest of it.
He said they might still take it to the European Court because there were other points that were important.
Fenlands was damaged after a digger was allegedly driven into cars and a heating oil tank outside and was then subject to alleged arson.