Farmer signals anger to firm

The senior partner and an articled clerk from a leading south east law firm are to

appear at Lewes Magistrates Court on 25 May in a private prosecution brought against them by a former client.

Christopher Hall, senior partner with Tunbridge Wells-based Cripps Harries Hall and his son, articled clerk Colin Hall, along with Colin Russell, not a member of the firm, are being prosecuted by farmer and former client John Hoath who accuses them of theft, criminal damage and assault causing

actual bodily harm.

Hoath fell out with the firm, owing it £12,000, after unsuccessful planning litigation. Attempts to recover the money have resulted in his bankruptcy.

He has already made unsuccessful complaints to the Solicitors Complaints Bureau and the Legal Services Ombudsman over the firm's methods of seeking its fees.

He has also paraded in Tunbridge Wells wearing sandwich boards bearing accusations against the firm.

His private prosecution stems from a bid by the firm to remove a massive and allegedly defamatory sign he erected outside his Crowborough farm. Matthew Knight, a former partner with Cripps Harries Hall who now has his own firm in Tunbridge Wells and is representing the Halls and Russell, says Colin Hall and Russell went to the farm to remove the sign after gaining consent from Hoath's bankruptcy trustees.

However, there was a scuffle in which Hall is said to have been hit and chased by Hoath. The sign was also damaged. The Crown Prosecution Service has already considered the case and decided not to act.

But Hoath, who claims he received actual bodily harm in the form of bruises and says that his property – the sign – was criminally damaged and then stolen, is pursuing a private prosecution.