Last week the Court of Appeal handed down its long awaited decision on whether or not former Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell’s libel solicitors would be able to recover their legal costs in their case against the Sun newspaper, an action which arose following the “Plebgate” scandal and Mr Mitchell’s subsequent resignation as Government Chief Whip.
Following a previous High Court decision, the Court had ruled that Mr Mitchell’s solicitors were unable to recover their legal costs incurred to date, aside from Court fees incurred, because of their failure to lodge their costs budget in good time.
The Appeal Judges, led by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, ruled that the decision in the lower Court had been correct, and that accordingly Mr Mitchell’s appeal must fail.
The Claimant lobby has reacted with dismay at the decision, which on the face of it appears unduly harsh in view of the extent of the solicitors’ default – their delay of some 6 days in filing Mr Mitchell’s cost budget will result in their forfeiting almost £600,000 worth of legal costs.
Others see the Court of Appeal’s decision as having been inevitable, however, since a decision to overturn the previous judgment of the High Court would have presented a body blow to the Government and Lord Justice Jackson’s wide ranging Civil Justice Reforms Programme, and its emphasis on reigning in the costs in the system.
This decision sends a clear message to all solicitors engaged in personal injury litigation, that significant delays in compliance with the Court’s directions, Court Orders or rules will not be tolerated.