QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF VICTORIA EBBNIE||Claimant|
|CHIEF CONSTABLE OF SURREY POLICE||Defendant|
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Mr Stephen Morley (instructed by the Force Solicitor, Surrey Police) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
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"Where a complainant has successfully challenged before justices an administrative decision made by a police or regulatory authority acting honestly, reasonably, properly and on grounds that reasonably appeared to be sound, in exercise of its public duty, the court should consider, in addition to any other relevant fact or circumstances, both (i) the financial prejudice to the particular complainant in the particular circumstances if an order for costs is not made in his favour; and (ii) the need to encourage public authorities to make and stand by honest, reasonable and apparently sound administrative decisions made in the public interest without fear of exposure to undue financial prejudice if the decision is successfully challenged."
"were the Justices wrong to apply the test in Bradford Metropolitan District Council v Booth when they were considering such costs as were fair, just and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case as were brought to their attention by the appellant?"
It is not, I think, entirely appropriate for a question to have been formulated in that way; and certainly it should not be answered by reference to the way it is formulated. Mr Turner and Mr Morley were rightly agreed that Bradford Metropolitan District Council v Booth did not lay down any "test". On the contrary, it is the words of statute which should be applied by the Justices. But that said, clearly the Justices were correct here to have regard to the decision in the Booth case and to that extent there can be no difficulty about the approach they adopted.
"if the Justices were right in applying this test; were they correct in determining the costs from the point where they found the respondent had caused unreasonable delay by failing to attend Court hearings."
Now, in the relevant respects, what the Justices found as set out in the case stated is this, paragraph 6, and I read it out in its entirety:
a) We are of the opinion that the original seizure of the £7,662.50 found on Miss Ebbnie at the time of her arrest was reasonable and not made in bad faith. Additionally that there were reasonable grounds for the police to carry out their investigations and that the application for detention/forfeiture was properly brought by them.
b) However in our opinion there came a time when there was an unreasonable delay by the police when the respondent did not appear in court on 6th December 2005 and 3rd January 2006 but the appellant was represented by Counsel.
c) We found that costs should be ordered in relation to these two dates to cover the costs of Counsel attending. (We did not find that any additional costs had been incurred as the preparation work had been necessary in any event). We awarded such costs as appeared to be just, fair and reasonable in all the circumstances as we found them. We awarded £415.85 costs as these were the Counsel costs for 6th December 2005 and 3rd January 2006 as stated in the schedule of costs."
I should add that a schedule of costs and bill of costs had been put in by Ms Ebbnie's solicitors which, including counsel's fees, gave rise to a total of £4,899.61. So the Justices awarded somewhat less than ten per cent of the total which had been claimed by the lawyers for Ms Ebbnie.
"We found that costs should be ordered in relation to those two dates to cover the costs of Counsel attending."
But that is not linked at all in terms of reasoning to the fact that, as they also found, an unreasonable delay had occurred. The Justices, it is true, did say, as Mr Morley emphasised, this:
"(We did not find that any additional costs had been incurred as the preparation work had been necessary in any event.)"
One can understand that point if the entirety of the costs of preparation had been incurred either before 6th December 2005 or, on another view, 3rd January 2006. But the statement of costs was not worded in such a way as to give those breakdowns; and in any event it is difficult to think that there were not at least some preparation costs either after 6th December 2005 or after 3rd January 2006: even though it may well be the case that a significant amount of costs had been incurred before 6th December 2005 or 3rd January 2006, which on the Justices' findings should not properly result in the award of the entire costs in Ms Ebbnie's favour.