This was the first appeal in which the recoverability of inquest costs in civil claims has fallen to be considered since introduction of the Jackson reforms. It followed an assessment of costs by Deputy Master Keens in the SCCO when he allowed the sum of £88,356.22 as a against an original claim of £122,000 excl VAT. The claim was for damages for breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, negligence and misfeasance in public office following the death of Ms Jones who became ill at a police station.
This was an appeal by the mother in Children Act proceedings against an order that she do pay £109,394 in costs. In the course of the proceedings the mother had been given a four year prison sentence in Russia for attempting to bribe a police officer to instigate criminal charges against the father in order to further her own claim on the children. Despite her incarceration, the mother had continued to pursue an appeal against an order that the father have custody of the children, before finally conceding, leaving only the incidence of costs to be decided.
The long awaited and much anticipated judgment in these appeals has been handed down.
The appeals raised a number of specific issues arising out of the respondent’s successful challenge on an assessment of the claimant’s costs to the amount of the ATE insurance premium recoverable by the appellants.
They also raised a number of wider points relating to reasonableness and proportionality and the proper approach to the assessment of costs.
This was an appeal against the decision of Master McCloud not to award the claimant a 10% ‘additional amount’ under CPR 36.17(4) on grounds that it would be disproportionate and unjust to do so where the claimant had beaten its own offer by just £7,000 on a bill assessed at £431,813.05.
In April 2013 the “old” proportionality test in the then CPR 44.4(2) was replaced by the “new” proportionality test in CPR 44.3(5). The essential difference being that necessity no longer trumps proportionality. There remain a few cases still being dealt with under the “old” rule. This was one of them. It was an appeal against decisions made by the Senior Costs Judge, Master Gordon-Saker in the course of a detailed assessment, including that the base fees, viewed globally, were not disproportionate.
It’s been six years since the introduction of the “new” proportionality rule in CPR 44.3(5). In that time there have been a handful of decisions at circuit judge level but none from the higher courts, until now. On appeal from Master Whalan in the Senior Courts Costs Office, The Hon. Mr Justice Marcus Smith was tasked with determining a number of issues arising from the detailed assessment of costs including the correct approach to proportionality. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the decision does not offer much in the way of general guidance.
Following his more widely reported decision on CPR 3.18(b) HHJ Dight declined to interfere with the Master’s ruling on proportionality where he reduced the claimant’s assessed costs from £52,000 to £40,000. The paying party appealed on grounds that the Master did not go far enough. She was unsuccessful.
On appeal against decisions made in the course of a detailed assessment in the Senior Courts Costs Office Mrs Justice Yip found (amongst other things) that the Deputy Master had been wrong to go behind the strict wording of the order for costs in order to give effect to what she believed the maker of the order had intended, rather than to what it actually said.
Master McCloud exercised her discretion and declined to award the claimant a 10% ‘additional amount’ under CPR 36.17(4) on grounds that it would be disproportionate and unjust to do so where the claimant had beaten its own offer by just £7,000 on a bill assessed at £431,813.05.