Publican 'settles for 14m' with council after wrongful imprisonment

Publican, 67, wrongly jailed when he couldn’t afford legal bills after solicitor who was in a relationship with council boss falsely accused him of food poisoning in ‘vendetta’ over a bottle of wine gets payout of up to £14MILLION in damages

  • Geoffrey Monks agrees ‘seven-figure settlement’ said to be in region of £14m
  • The 67-year-old publican ran The Snooty Fox in Kettering, Northants, until he was wrongly found guilty of six breaches of food safety laws in the late 1990s 
  • Monks was hit with then-record costs of £33,000 and was imprisoned in 2003
  • Was jailed in max security HMP Woodhill, Bucks, with cell next to Ian Huntley
  • Monks always protested his innocence and claimed the council had a ‘vendetta’

An upmarket publican who lost everything when he was wrongfully imprisoned following a ‘vendetta’ by his local council is set to be paid millions in damages after agreeing a ‘substantial’ seven-figure settlement.

Geoffrey Monks, 67, who ran The Snooty Fox in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was accused of breaking food safety laws when East Northamptonshire Council claimed to have found ‘mouldy ham’ inside the premises in 1999.

Following these alleged infractions, Dr Monks was hit with the-then largest fine on record for breaching six food safety offences – £25,500 plus his legal costs of £8,300. 

The pub boss could not afford to pay his costs after losing his businesses and his home, and in 2003 was imprisoned at the maximum security HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes – with his cell adjacent to Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

David Oliver, then Chief Executive of ENDC, was invited to oversee punishment by the council’s environment department, and it was claimed in court that the local authority had pursued a ‘vendetta’ against Dr Monks.

The pair’s disagreement is understood to have stemmed from an argument between Dr Monks and a solicitor – described in court as a ‘sexual partner’ of Mr Oliver’s – over a bottle of wine in The Snooty Fox. The council did not deny this claim. 

In 2015, Dr Monks won a retrial of the Snooty Fox case, and two other prosecutions made against two other former venues were also quashed. 

After vehemently maintaining his innocence for more than two decades, Dr Monks has now agreed a seven-figure settlement figure after launching a High Court battle against the council in 2019.

The settlement is believed to be in the region of £14million, and it is just the third time in history that an applicant has successfully claimed ‘abuse of process’, the last such case being in 1861. 

Public Geoffrey Monks, 67, has agreed a seven-figure settlement figure, believed to be in the region of £14m, with East Northamptonshire Council after launching a High Court battle in 2019 over his wrongful conviction and loss of earnings

Monks who ran The Snooty Fox in Kettering, Northamptonshire (pictured), was wrongly jailed after East Northamptonshire Council claimed to have found ‘mouldy ham’ inside the premises in 1999

Dr Monks’ 25-year nightmare began in 1998 when he barred solicitor Jenny Lawrence from the Snooty Fox after she was reportedly furious over being served the ‘wrong bottle of wine’.

Ms Lawrence complained that she had suffered food poisoning at the upmarket pub, with the ENDC launching an investigation into ‘mouldy ham’ at the Snooty Fox. 

Monks alleged that Ms Lawrence, who is understood to no longer practice law, was in a ‘sexual relationship’ with East Northamptonshire Council’s chief executive, David Oliver at the time. The council did not deny this claim. 

In 2000, he was convicted for the Snooty Fox ‘offences’, despite his legal team arguing the evidence offered against him was both ‘thin and contradictory’. The prosecution was quashed 15 years later.

Dr Monks was later accused of having mice and broken glass in his other local venues, The Vane Arms and Samuel Pepys pubs.

Judges remarked that out of more than 7,000 food standards inspections by East Northamptonshire District Council over the course of a decade, just four convictions were made – three of which were against Mr Monks. 

Environmental officers suggested Monks carry out ‘remedial’ actions for the phantom breaches, but this was ignored and the punishment was directly overseen by Mr Oliver. 

Monks would later claim the local authority launched an ‘abusive campaign’ against him after winning his appeals against his six convictions for food safety breaches. 

East Northamptonshire Council’s chief executive David Oliver (pictured) was allegedly in a sexual relationship with solicitor Jenny Lawrence at the time she made a food poisoning complaint against The Snooty Fox

After losing his businesses and his home, Dr Monks was sent to maximum security HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes (left). His cell was adjacent to Sohan murderer Ian Huntley (right), who was awaiting trial at the time

 Dr Monks would spend 57 days in Category A HMP Woodhill in Buckinghamshire after failing to pay the record-breaking fees from the alleged food safety breaches. 

While imprisoned in the maximum security jail that once housed murderers, rapists and terrorists, Dr Monks suffered a heart attack and has suffered crippling health issues since. 

The publican was financially ruined by his prosecution, losing his home and businesses, and was unable to afford legal costs to challenge the rulings until 2019. 

He is understood to have run up bills of more than £150,000 following his high-profile action against the local authority that he claims ruined his life. 

Dr Monks sued East Northamptonshire Council, now North Northamptonshire Council after the former went bust in 2018, for £14million after claiming loss of earnings for his three former thriving establishments.

North Northamptonshire’s taxpayers are now set to foot the bill for their local authority’s infractions. The council will also offer an apology in open court for their predecessor’s actions.

Geraint Thomas, partner and head of the disputes team at Laytons ETL Global who led Dr Monks’ claim, insisted the settlement ‘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.

‘It is accepted East Northamptonshire Council’s actions caused serious personal injury, loss, and damage to him over a period of more than 20 years, and I sincerely apologise for those actions.’

Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council, said: ‘East Northamptonshire Council’s decision to prosecute Dr Monks in relation to the Snooty Fox was an abuse of process and should never have occurred.

‘It is accepted that East Northamptonshire Council’s actions caused serious personal injury, loss, and damage to him over a period of more than 20 years, and I sincerely apologise for those actions.

‘I hope that Dr Monks is able to have his reputation restored and that the substantial damages which the Council has agreed to pay to him go some way towards assisting him to move forward with his life.’

Northamptonshire Police have since confirmed they are investigating to determine whether or not criminal offences should also be brought against the council. 

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