News in brief: Judiciary publishes new guideline hourly rates

7 December 2023

New guideline hourly rates published

The judiciary has published the new guideline hourly rates (GHR) coming into force from 1 January 2024, following the Master of the Rolls’ announcement last month that he was accepting the recommendations of the Civil Justice Council’s costs review.

This sees the rate for grade A London rates increase from £512 to £546.

From now on, the GHR will be uplifted annually by the services producer price index. Further, a “small” working group will work separately to examine the methodology underpinning the rates.

 

Costs ordered against litigation friend over aborted final hearing

A Family Court judge has awarded costs of £42,000 against a litigation friend because his failures led to a final hearing “being abortive or at least not final”.

In Y v Z [2023] EWFC 205, His Honour Judge Hess was meant to hear the appeal of a decision in financial remedy proceedings over five days in October, but in the run-up to it, the wife (Z) and her litigation friend Dr X told the court that Z still lacked litigation capacity and that Dr X was unwell too, and had “given up doing anything very much in his role as litigation friend”. He had formally applied to be discharged as the litigation friend.

Z’s counsel did not appear at the hearing – it emerged that Dr X had known that counsel could not make it for several months but did not try to find a replacement – and Dr X did not attend either, leaving Z without a litigation friend or legal representation.

HHJ Hess accepted that the husband should have his wasted costs paid, put at £42,129, and reached “a clear view that the fair and just outcome” was for Dr X should pay them all, rather than split with Z.

“He willingly took on the role of litigation friend and his performance has been wholly inadequate. I accept that he has not been well, but this fact does not adequately excuse or explain his conduct and he should not escape the consequences of what has happened.”

 

High Court orders costs against Parole Board for unreasonable conduct of judicial review

The High Court has taken the unusual step of ordering costs against the Parole Board in a successful judicial review over its refusal to grant an oral hearing.

An order for costs is not generally made against the Parole Board (recognised as a judicial body for these purposes) where it has played a neutral role in proceedings.

In R (On the application of Somers) v Parole Board for England and Wales (Re Costs) [2023] EWHC 2962 (Admin) – decided in July but only recently published – Mrs Justice Foster had found for the claimant that the board’s decision was flawed and inconsistent with authority. The claimant sought his costs, arguing that the board unreasonably did not concede its case at an early stage as it was invited to do, and ought to have done, refusing to sign a consent order.

Foster J accepted that the board’s position was “effective neutrality”. But she continued: “I am of the view that the failure to agree that the claimant had a very clear case and that the Parole Board had made an obviously flawed decision was unreasonable. Accordingly I make an award of costs against the Parole Board in this case.

“It was unreasonable not to agree to the consent order, the so-called issues thought to arise did not in truth require decision. There was a plain failure to respect the Osborn guidance [R (Osborn and Booth) v Parole Board [2014 AC 115]. Many features of that case which were persuasive of the need for an oral hearing were present here, and required no further exegesis.

“Further, the approach of the decision-maker following the single member refusal was also flawed – treating the exercise of reconsideration rather as a review of the previous decision.”

The judge said the order for costs was “consistent with the overriding objective that effectively hopeless cases are settled”.

Jude Bunting KC and Michael Bimmler (instructed by SL5 Legal) for the claimant. Nicholas Chapman (instructed by Government Legal Department) for the defendant.

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07 Dec 2023

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