I accept that in relation to a summary assessment on an indemnity basis, it may be appropriate to adopt rates that are marginally in excess of the guideline rates but what is reasonable depends ultimately not on the value of the litigation as a whole but on the nature of the application in respect of which costs are sought. This was a relatively straight forward application for an extension of time to serve witness statements. Whilst I am prepared to adopt the London 1 rates, essentially on the basis of an acceptance by the defendant that that is appropriate in the circumstances, given the nature of the application it is entirely inappropriate that I should attempt to exercise whatever jurisdiction I have to assess costs by reference to a rate that is higher than the guideline rate. Anything in excess of the guideline rate has to be justified, and Mr Sprange realistically has not attempted to do so. Therefore all sums for which payment is due under this assessment will be calculated at the London 1 guideline rates applicable for the appropriate fee earners.“
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Mr Justice Morgan examined a long line of authority in this case ranging in date from 1727 to 1921 to determine important issues as to the circumstances in which litigation friends should be ordered to pay other parties’ costs, and where orders for costs might be made in their favour.
Lionel Persey QC sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court granted the Defendants relief from sanctions following the late filing of their costs budget by 13 days. It was accepted that the breach had been inadvertent and understandable given that the Defendants had been relying on an agreed table of procedural steps to be completed before the CCMC, which made no mention of costs budgeting. It was found that the Defendants had “dropped the ball” but that their default was not egregious in the particular circumstances of the case.
The SCCO Guideline Hourly Rates were last updated in 2010. In 2014 they were reviewed by the then Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson MR, but left unchanged due to a lack of reliable evidence.
But how relevant are the guidelines five years on?
The Rules regarding the review of a Costs Officer’s decision in the JCPC differ slightly from the Rules of the Supreme Court but they are set out separately below for ease of reference.
The fee on filing a Bill of Costs is 2.5% of the amount claimed (including VAT).
The fee payable on assessment of the Bill is 2.5% of the amount allowed (including the costs of assessment and VAT).
Where a Bill of Costs is agreed fewer than 21 days prior to assessment, the assessment fee is payable on the amount agreed between the parties.
Where a Paying Party does not file Points of Dispute, a Provisional Assessment will be conducted.
In the Supreme Court a Provisional Assessment will also be carried out where one of the parties requests such an assessment or where the costs claimed are £75,000 or less. A Provisional Assessment will also be carried out in the Supreme Court in cases involving public funding, except where a Legal Aid provider requests a hearing or where the size or complexity of the Bill requires a Detailed Assessment hearing.
The claim for costs must be in Form 5 specified in Section 2 of the respective Practice Directions of the Supreme Court and the JCPC. It must be filed within three months of the date on which the relevant costs order was made and must, at the same time, be served on the other parties. There is provision in the Supreme Court (PD 13 para 8) and JCPC (PD 8 para 6) to seek an extension or to file out of time, but time limits in the Supreme Court and JCPC are enforced more strictly than in the SCCO and (unlike in the SCCO) there is no onus on the Paying Party to take the issue.
Assessments of costs in the Supreme Court are conducted by the Costs Officers appointed by the President. One must be a Costs Judge; the second must be the Registrar of the Supreme Court. The Costs Officers normally sit together as a Court of two or three. The current panel of Costs Judges sitting in the Supreme Court is the Senior Costs Judge (Chief Taxing Master) Gordon-Saker, Master Leonard and Master James.
Various statutes give the SCCO jurisdiction to assess costs in litigation including…