QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
2 Park Street
B e f o r e :
|CARDIFF COUNTY COUNCIL||Defendant|
WordWave International Limited
A Merrill Communications Company
165 Fleet Street London EC4A 2DY
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7404 1424
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
Mr Amos appeared on behalf of the Defendant.
Crown Copyright ©
His Honour Judge Bidder:
MR AMOS: There is an application for the appellant to pay the respondent's costs of this appeal. There is a costs schedule which I hope has found its way to your Lordship.
JUDGE BIDDER: It has found its way to me. Has it found its way to Mr Hutchings?
MR AMOS: It has indeed, my Lord.
JUDGE BIDDER: Mr Hutchings, there is an application for costs and there are two matters: one is the matter of principle of whether an order of costs should be made against you. I am governed by the civil procedure rules, particularly rule 44. I have to take into account many factors, but success in the particular hearing is a very important factor for me to take into account. I also have to take into account the conduct of the parties. If there are any factors which you want me to take into account specifically, normally it follows the event; that the person who wins often gets their costs, and that is an important factor. So on the question of principle, are there any factors that you say that I should take a look at in making a decision on the question of principle?
Secondly, there is an issue of the extent of cost, and I am supposed so summarily assess the costs and I have got the schedule. Can we set the schedule aside for the moment and decide on the issue of principle. Do you have anything to say?
MR HUTCHINGS: I don't think so, no, I don't think so, not without going into the behaviour in the first place. Like I say, there was an unnecessary entrenchment right from the day one from the council point of view.
JUDGE BIDDER: The question is whether on this appeal from the decision of the tribunal they won.
MR HUTCHINGS: Yes, in which case I can't argue in principle.
JUDGE BIDDER: In principle I am going to make an order of costs against the appellant. I will now summarily assess the costs.
MR HUTCHINGS: My Lord, may I ask when I should have received this?
JUDGE BIDDER: You should receive it at least I think 24 hours before the hearing.
MR AMOS: Yes.
JUDGE BIDDER: Was it served in that time?
MR AMOS: As far as I understand, it was served yesterday.
JUDGE BIDDER: I got it yesterday, did you?
MR HUTCHINGS: I didn't get it until yesterday teatime and it was served…
JUDGE BIDDER: The question is, have you had enough time to look at it?
MR HUTCHINGS: It was served via the internet, so I didn't get it until… it wasn't I don't think it was relayed until the lunchtime.
JUDGE BIDDER: Do you want more time to look at it?
MR HUTCHINGS: In truth, no.
JUDGE BIDDER: Have you got any criticisms of it?
JUDGE BIDDER: Yes, I would oppose the costs of the council solicitor. I don't see why… he is a public employee, I understand, is he? Is he entitled to costs?
JUDGE BIDDER: Yes, he is entitled to costs based on an hourly rate. The hourly rate is a very low one, I may say. If they had instructed a private solicitor it would have been far higher. A hundred is as low as you can get for proceedings. I am afraid you are rather fortunate it is very low indeed. But then the question is looking at whether these are reasonable and necessary elements of costs. They are not disproportionate. The amount that is claimed is not in itself excessive and I have got to see whether it is disproportionate. The amount is not obviously disproportionate, but I have to look whether these in essence are reasonable. The attendances on their own party taking instructions on their own side which is a very low figure, even spending 48-minutes on it, ringing you up or writing to you about this hearing.
MR HUTCHINGS: That does rather surprise me.
JUDGE BIDDER: It is too much.
MR HUTCHINGS: I think so yes, I can't recollect that there was thatch. I must be fair, Mr Mar was kind enough to supply me these by request, you know, so that is fair enough.
JUDGE BIDDER: Attendance on others, presumably that is counsel, is it?
MR AMOS: My Lord, I don't know for sure. I am afraid I don't have an instructing solicitor here today. I would assume so.
JUDGE BIDDER: The works done on documents, actually I am a bit surprised it is as low as it is. For an hour and 20-minutes on preparing this bundle (inaudible). Then there is your fee, Mr Amos.
MR HUTCHINGS: May I… I have got no objection to that. The matter of VAT, are they registered for VAT? The council… I am surprised that they are registered for VAT.
JUDGE BIDDER: It is counsel's fee, not on their own… They themselves are not claiming for VAT on solicitors.
JUDGE BIDDER: So the…
JUDGE BIDDER: The fact that the services, their legal services legal services, has cited is actually evidence that these have been properly incurred costs, and I would not normally go behind that unless there were grounds for suspecting dishonesty.
MR HUTCHINGS: I am not suggesting dishonesty, just a question of --
MR AMOS: It may be, if I can turn my back briefly --
JUDGE BIDDER: Yes.
MR AMOS: My Lord, as I understand it, there will be an internal bill within the council that goes to the instructing department from Mr Mar's department.
JUDGE BIDDER: That is the way they deal with it? There is the registered VAT and they claim that. He has signed it in properly. I have no reason to doubt he has not signed it properly so it is the right way to sign it.
MR HUTCHINGS: I accept that.
JUDGE BIDDER: Well, summarily assessing it, it is an extremely low figure. I have to say I have seen bills which are three times this is amount for this type of High Court appeal. It is not obviously disproportionate and the council defend this appeal successfully. The bundle is a very detailed bundle and I am really very sad that the amount of hours is such that in respect of more for a bundle of this size are regularly (inaudible) Others civil matters get (inaudible) reasonable for costs, and I know award I order that the appellant pay the respondent's costs summarily assessed in the sum of 1, £570 inclusive of council VAT. Thank you very much. Thank you very much to both of you, particularly to Mr Hutchings. To get such a reasonable argument from a lay person…(inaudible)
MR HUTCHINGS: My Lord, I think I would have gone on and on if you had not stopped me. I haven't done this frivolously. I really thought there was a strong principle involved and I paid for it.
NOTE FROM HIS HONOUR JUDGE BIDDER QC
In this case there appears to have been a fault in the recording system. I had to check a transcript that was in many places unintelligible, long after the hearing and with the help of only very sketchy notes. I have done my best but am conscious that I cannot recollect much of how I expressed myself. If there remain questions about the current transcript, learned counsel for the respondents should be asked to check his note of the hearing and of the judgment.
22nd July 2011