Mitchell libel case overspend comes at a cost

A landmark costs ruling has been issued by Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls which sends a clear message to parties to litigation that non-compliance with the Jackson reforms will not be tolerated. The decision, issued last week in the Court of Appeal, upheld the High Court’s decision to deny any relief from sanction to the firm of solicitors representing MP Andrew Mitchell in his libel case against The Sun.

It has been widely reported that Atkins Thomson had filed its costs budget of over £500,000 six days after the deadline for doing so and only one day before the case management hearing. Dyson’s judgement stated that the delays by the solicitors were not ‘minor or trivial’ in nature and that there was no good excuse for them. In fact, these issues led to an abortive cost budgeting hearing and an adjournment that has ‘serious consequences’ for other litigants.

Desmond Hudson, Chief Executive of The Law Society commented on the ruling by stating that:

“It was always our view that the judiciary were likely to impose serious sanctions for failure to comply with these rules.”

The above decision sets a sharp focus on the costs of litigation and comes only a few days after High Court Judge Mr Justice Moor called for a cap on the costs of disbursements in divorce cases, following news that Michelle Young spent £6.4m in legal and expert costs over several years in her dispute with her husband Scott Young.

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