Page 31 - PIC Magazine Winter Issue 14
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       Kasper, 40, Luton
“Are you for or against court fee remissions?”
You
Costs Officer Sonia
 Neither. Though I will say that Merton’s law of unintended consequences has always warned that intervening in any complex system tends to create unanticipated
and often undesirable outcomes. I am m
Ask...
Ponceby-Thwaites
   reminded of the French Rugby team’s
The Judge is ‘away’ and in his place we have Costs Officer Sonia Ponceby-Thwaites.
s arrow of confrontation against the
  All-Blacks’ haka, and the issues and fines that followed; and have again, I see, followed against England. I am sure someone saw the old fee remissions
and in a light bulb moment felt that this was just the thing to help all of those litigants on the poverty line who, with legal aid languishing in the rubbish bin, would not be able to pay their ever- spiralling court fees. However, it was surely never intended that the state would step up and fund civil litigation where there exist alternative means
to pay, irrespective of what these may be. I found the first instance decision in Cook v Malcolm Nicholls Limited to be flawless although with up to £10,000.00 turning on this point, it is only a matter of time before the issue floats upwards like an excretion out of a u-bend.
June, 32, London
“Do you feel that a heavy costs reduction on assessment should be reflected in the subsequent award of assessment costs?”
Like so many costs questions, this really does turn on the facts. Rashid v Oil Companies International Marine Forum is interesting reading and a Judgment
I would endorse as readily as I would Lady Hale’s amazing spider brooch
(I have invested in my own in honour of this, a brooch showing the All-Black’s crushed beneath Owen Farrell’s boot). If the costs claim itself is not replete with exaggeration and is reduced greatly by subjective factors such as additional liabilities, hourly rates et
al, then the overall reduction would
be a factor but not a determinative one, when it came to establishing assessment costs liability and recovery. I feel I’d be harsh to penalise a Solicitor on costs whose rate was high, but
not abhorrently so, but who I then determined should recover only 60% of this based on my interpretation of the issues. Then again, claim a ludicrous rate without reasons or attempt to envelope me in a web of misinformation, and the assessment costs may well be the stick with which I choose to beat a solicitor back to their desk.
Cain, 26, Chichester
 “Do you slavishly follow the SCCO guideline rates?”
I do not. The SCCO guidelines are just that, guidelines. I am aware of no rule or authority that compels me to use these and the assertion that I, or any other Judge/ Master might ‘slavishly follow them’ is impertinent. 2010 was nearly a decade
ago and a lot has transpired over this time. Yes, I will be aware of them much like I’m aware of an irritant slumped in the corner of my weekly game of Baccarat; my Husband will not play and spends the evening whimpering over his Fonseca; but I shall not be a slave to them. Perhaps a more appropriate question might be, when does an ‘SCCO rate case’ cease to be an ‘SCCO rate case’? For the answer to that, you must hale up the brails till next time.
Cath, 59, Beccles
“How do you intend to deal with good reason arguments flowing from Barts Health NHS Trust -v-Salmon?”
I confess to not entirely following the reasoning but much as England must
(at writing) steel themselves to face De Klerk; one must steel one’s self to deal with Barts. In effect, if your assumptions (which must be crude) allow for, say, a JSM in your ADR Phase, and one never occurs, yet you spend 99% of those costs, then the inconsistency between spend and assumptions (upon which a Judge has theoretically based the Budget allowance) is a good reason to depart. This I follow, in theory,
and despite the arguable contradiction in the CPR relating to constituent elements. However, Barts seems to have stumbled one step further and found that where the work done, and spend, was not exactly the same as the approved Budget, then this too was a good reason. I find the likelihood of a Budget spend exactly mirroring
the allowance in even a completed phase to be about as likely as my beloved kaleidoscopic platforms still fitting (oh they were head turners, and I was once complimented by Mr Travolta himself in a most agreeable evening at the Carwash) and, in effect, we have here a counsel of perfection issue and one that seemingly unravels the entire point of Budgeting, and one that I fear we may be lumbered with.
Neville, 48, Cardiff
“Did you ever expect the CJC working group to agree fixed costs?”
I feel some element of fixed fees are inevitable and the CJC had a thankless Jellicle choice that was unlikely to be reached. Still, at least all interested parties conducted themselves with a degree of decorum, unlike our elected representatives who embarrass themselves and us with their conduct. Saying that, I may have stayed late to watch a collection of lawyers, Judges and intellectuals berating each other like school children,
pitching custard pies at one another and then deciding to resolve the issue with fisticuffs and champions around the back of the MOJ on a lunchtime. I feel clinical negligence fixed costs are about as likely to happen as Brexit.
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