West Norfolk council refused dirty kitchen probe costs

A council that spent £54,403 prosecuting a couple who ran a Chinese restaurant over dirty kitchens in Norfolk has been criticised by a judge.

West Norfolk Borough Council spent the money on a specialist barrister.

Judge Peter Jacobs said the case against Szechuan Inn Restaurant in Downham Market, was not "complicated".

Costs claimed by the council were "not in tune" with the public mood after Tuesday's austerity budget statement, he told Norwich Crown Court.

Yoonh Wong, 31, and Elsie Ong, 29, who ran the restaurant, had admitted hygiene offences after council officers found rat droppings, the court heard.

Neither turned up for the hearing and a warrant may be issued for their arrest.

In their absence they were each fined £5,000 with £3,000 costs.

The council was seeking £54,403 costs - including £29,121 for fees for prosecuting barrister Colm Lyons who charged travel reimbursement of £583 a journey.

Danger from rats

Judge Jacobs told Mr Lyons: "I am not sure that these sort of costs are in tune with the public mood after what I had to read and listen to in common with the rest of us on Tuesday."

He also questioned whether the inquiry could be classed as "specialist".

"If this were a complicated tax fraud or complicated health and safety case I could see it," he added.

"Yes, people who run restaurants have a duty to the public to maintain rigorous cleanliness.

"There is not only Salmonella to consider but Wheils disease caused by rats which can kill."

He told prosecution lawyer Colm Lyons the overall costs would have only been allowed in complex health and safety cases where there had been a death.

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