A JUDGE from Huddersfield who moved to the Outer Hebrides to become a crofter ended up in court after allegedly resisting paying back a grant given to help build his new house.
A Scottish court heard how Judge Graham Manchester from Holmfirth had moved to one of the islands with his wife and three children.
However, the move did not work out as the judge could not make enough money herding cows on North Uist.
The 58-year-old moved back to the Holme Valley leaving behind the new crofthouse that had been built using a £11,500 Crofters Commission grant.
The court heard how Judge Manchester hadn’t told the commission he was leaving and a condition of him receiving the grant was that he and his family would ‘occupy’ the house for 15 years.
Seven months after leaving the island to come back to Yorkshire he received the grant but carried on using the Scottish four-bedroomed house as a holiday home.
The court heard the purpose of the house grants scheme is for “the retention of population in the crofting areas and the provision of assistance to crofters to enable them to build a house on their croft in order to be able to live on and work on the croft.”
The court was told that in his signed application for the grant the judge understood “that if the assisted house ceases to be or does not become my main residence I may be required to repay immediately all of the grant.”
Four years after Judge Manchester left the crofthouse two agricultural officers investigated and said the croft and the house were not being used on a day-to-day basis.
In August 2008 lawyers sent the judge a notice for repayment of part of the grant as they said he was no longer permanently resident on the croft.
But Judge Manchester said the notice was invalid and he was still using the crofthouse as his main residence.
He fought the order at Lochmaddy Sheriff Court in January and won his case on a legal technicality so doesn’t have to repay the money.
The court heard Mrs Manchester returned to live in the crofthouse in January and now had a job locally as a teacher.
The judge said that as soon as he could sell his house he would retire from his job and join his wife, Victoria.
He said although he had spent the last seven years in England he had got another crofter to look after his Highland cows.
In the judge’s favour the Sheriff John Newall said: “Mr Manchester did not intend to leave the island to work at the time he made the application.
“I am in no doubt there was no intention on his part to seek to fund a second home from the grant.”