A horse evicted by Western Isles Council from the front room she was living in could return home after her owner won a legal battle.
Western Isles Council evicted Stephanie Ann Noble’s prize pony from her Isle of Lewis home, however, three words missing from a court document meant Western Isles Council’s case has now been thrown out.
Despite the ruling, the council still adamantly refuses to hand the animal back.
Western Isles Council effectively took Ms Noble’s adult Connemara pony into care, claiming its living conditions for the previous two years in the front room of the ex-council house were too cramped.
Ms Noble is still the legal owner but since last February, the council has racked up a huge bill in looking after it at stables on a different island.
The local authority went to court seeking ownership of the horse, called Grey Lady Too, which would abolish all Ms Noble’s rights to the animal.
But a council blunder meant Ms Noble’s name was missing from vital legal documents, creating a phantom court case.
It meant the council failed to specify who it was taking the legal action against.
Sheriff David Hall threw out the council’s case and ordered them to pay Ms Noble’s legal fees.
However, the council is digging its hooves in and refuses to return the horse, saying it will consider either appealing the sheriff’s decision or starting the legal action all over again.
Ms Noble clutched a copy of Horse and Hound magazine as she observed the legal debate at Stornoway Sheriff Court this afternoon.
Advocate Stewart Buchanan – representing Ms Noble – repeatedly insisted that the council’s case was not competent.
Mr Stewart stressed the omission of Ms Noble’s details from the court paperwork was a “radical defect.”
He highlighted: “Without a defender there just hasn’t ever been a (legal) application before the court.”
Naming the person the case is against is “fundamental to the litigation” he added.
He said: “Ms Noble is prejudice by the first document that started all this off. It is simply not a document recognised by the court.”
In court, Western Isles Council accepted the “unfortunate” omission, acknowledging it would have been “absolutely better” if Ms Noble’s name had been included.
But the error was “not fatal“ and should not stop the case progressing, said the council.
The council’s agent suggested it was simply a “technicality and urged the sheriff to correct the mistake there and then, saying he had discretion to do so.
The council lawyer pointed out that the case was costing great expense to the public purse.
She said Ms Noble had not only answered the citation but had been legally represented during the last year.
Sheriff David Hall concluded “in favour of the defender” and dismissed the council’s action.
Ms Noble beamed with joy as the sheriff delivered his decision but declined to comment “at this stage.”
However, the council insists it has no intention of returning the horse, saying it may appeal or resubmit proper legal documents.
A council spokesman said: “Grey Lady Too was removed for welfare reasons and will remain in the care of the council.
“The decision today will delay the ultimate determination of what happens to the pony.
“Today’s hearing related to procedural matters and the council will consider the findings.
“The council continues to act in the interests of the welfare of Grey Lady Too.”
Ms Noble purchased the animal in Ireland for nearly £1,900 in 2011 but faced a raft of problems in securing grazings nearby.
The former riding school operator, originally from Londonderry, took the animal indoors that same year, claiming it had no winter shelter.
But the supposedly temporary arrangement continued for well over two years.
The 68-year-old stayed in a bedroom upstairs while the rest of her home was given to the horse.