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Knoydart pub owner must provide evidence of absence

Knoydart Renewables are in court in a dispute with Belgian Jean-Pierre Robinet, owner of The Old Forge, Knoydart.
Knoydart Renewables are in court in a dispute with Belgian Jean-Pierre Robinet, owner of The Old Forge, Knoydart.

The owner of the remotest pub in Scotland – accused of not paying an electricity bill – has been told to provide evidence proving he was unable to attend a court hearing.

If the evidence is not brought, then Jean-Pierre Robinet, owner of The Old Forge, on Knoydart, has been warned he will automatically lose his case over the non-payment of a £3,600 bill from Knoydart community company.

In a brief civil case hearing yesterday at Fort William Sheriff Court, Robinet, originally from Belgium, was represented by Mr Don Meekie, who apologised on his client’s behalf for his non appearance.

During a case management discussion, Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald said: “Sheriff Aitken, who was on the bench at the last hearing, set down some very specific information that had to be brought to the court today.

“Mr Robinet said he could not be at court because he was stranded abroad because of an air traffic controllers strike in Belgium.

“He was told to appear today with that information – proof of tickets and flights, and the reasons why he was stranded.

“The hearing will be held in May. I will not put this matter off again. If Mr Robinet does not bring this evidence then I will be forced to find in favour of the pursuant.”

Angela Williams from Knoydart Renewables, told the court they had tried to negotiate with Robinet to reduce the bill.

Ms Williams said: “We have been in discussion to try and reduce the bill by some £800, but we understand that this is not acceptable to Mr Robinet. We are a small charity and we want to do what we can, but there is a limit to the flexibility that we have.”

Mr Meekie said he had spoken to various organisations about reaching a settlement between the two parties outside of the court system.

He said: “I have spoken to Citizen’s Advice, OFGEM and OSCR – the charity regulator, to try and find a way forward.

“I spoke to OFGEM who said these matters should be dealt with outside the court system.”

However, Sheriff MacDonald dismissed the motion, saying she would have to have the details of the process in front of her, and this would still not resolve the unpaid bill before the court.

The case will call again on May 10 when a trial will take place.

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