Who? Belinda Walkinshaw, 52, property litigation partner at London and Hertfordshire firm SA Law.
Why is she in the news? Secured almost £27,000 in legal costs from a London borough council that had unlawfully accused her construction company client of breaching an agreement to regulate the flow of plant to and from a building site.
The council’s planners had given her client permission to build a two-storey luxury basement beneath a property. One of the property’s neighbours complained and the council responded by taking legal action against Walkinshaw’s client, issuing a breach of condition notice alleging that it had failed to comply with the Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) agreed before work began.
Walkinshaw convinced a district judge that the notice was defective in that it omitted to say how the CTMP had been breached and what the company could do to rectify the situation.
In awarding costs against the local authority, the district judge said: ‘The decision to prosecute a company for an offence such as this, which can have reputational consequences if proved, is an important and serious one.’
Thoughts on the case: ‘Some local planning authorities are under pressure to crack down on the trend for basement development. This case highlights that local authorities must act lawfully and follow the correct procedures before taking enforcement action, especially where that action involves criminal prosecution, which could have a serious impact on a company’s reputation.’
Dealing with the media: ‘Interest came from the building trade press, but costs issues are going to be ever more in the public eye.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘The idea arose from a conversation with a friend one rainy afternoon in Stratford-upon-Avon.’
Career high: ‘The successful conclusion of a 10-year court battle to allow my client to restore Brighton seafront’s grade II-listed Embassy Court to its former glory.’
Career low: ‘I was a newly qualified litigator getting advocacy experience in the magistrates’ court and doing quite well – I thought – until the prosecution asked my client how he spent his time. He began: “Well, the last time I got out of prison…” The prosecutor turned and winked at me.’