QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF THE CHIEF CONSTABLE OF HAMPSHIRE CONSTABULARY||(CLAIMANT)|
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"Were we right to order the respondent to pay the appellant's costs?"
The power of the Crown Court to award costs in such proceedings is to be found in rule 12(2) of the Crown Court Rules 1982, which provides that the Crown Court "may make such order for costs as it thinks just." That simple provision has led to a good deal of litigation.
"... the Chief Constable's responsibility is an onerous one. He has, of course, to act in good faith and he has to act reasonably and he must not misconceive the relevant provisions. But provided he acts in that way, it would be quite wrong for him to have to consider whether, if he did act in what he regarded as a proper fashion, costs might be awarded against him. That would be to inhibit his actions, which are there in the public interest."
"... generally speaking, a cost order adverse to such an authority would not be made unless there was some good reason for doing so, which was more than the fact that the other party to the contest had succeeded."
He then referred to previously identified grounds for an award, such as a lack of good faith, or the running of a case which is without foundation or born of malice or of some improper motive.
"... if it can be shown that the police's position has been totally unreasonable or prompted by some improper motive."
And on the following page:
" ... that the police have acted otherwise than in good faith or have acted utterly unreasonably before they are exposed to an order for costs."
"We can understand why the ... Chief Constable might have taken the view he did."
It was incumbent upon the Crown Court to consider the decision of the Chief Constable, essentially as at the time he had made it, and upon the material upon which he had made it. It seems from the judgment in the Crown Court that the judge and his magistrate colleagues attached considerable significance to the fact that Mr Oldring had been acquitted of the criminal charges. As they said:
"However, looking at the material before us, and indeed particularly bearing in mind what we now know happened in the Magistrates' Court when the appellant was in fact acquitted of both the allegations against him ..."
That seems to me to embrace an erroneous approach. The fact of acquittal in the Magistrates' Court could not have been conclusive as to the unreasonableness of the Chief Constable's act in revoking the certificates. As Mr Savill submits, considerations of public protection underlying the Chief Constable's statutory licensing function require him to act promptly and, if necessary, robustly. Moreover, he is applying a very different test from that applied in the criminal court. He is concerned with whether a holder of a certificate is a danger to public safety or to the peace. He is considering that matter, not on the basis of the criminal standard of proof, which applied in the Magistrates' Court when the criminal charges were being tried, but on the balance of probabilities. Even if the decision in the Magistrates' Court had preceded the decision to revoke, the Chief Constable would not have been bound by the fact of acquittal alone to decide against revocation.