Former Conservative chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, will not be able to recover his full legal costs if he is successful in his libel action against the Sun newspaper after his legal team missed a deadline to file its costs budget.
This is the first ruling on costs following the introduction of the Jackson reforms of litigation costs – and could lead to an increase in professional negligence cases against solicitors who miss procedural deadlines.
Mr Mitchell is suing the Sun newspaper after it reported that he called police officers ‘plebs’ in Downing Street after they stopped him from riding his bicycle through the main gates. Mr Mitchell’s solicitors should have filed their costs budget with the court at least seven days before a costs hearing arranged under the Jackson rules. They missed the deadline and only filed the budget, believed to be in excess of £500,000, the day before the hearing.
As a result, High Court Master Victoria McCloud decided that Mr Mitchell would be unable to recover any of his legal costs, if successful against the Sun newspaper, other than £2,000 of court fees. Mr Mitchell’s appeal against the ruling was rejected by the Court of Appeal. Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said that courts now had to take a more robust approach to legal teams which did not meet their obligations under the Jackson reforms.
“This sends a clear message that the courts are taking the Jackson reforms very seriously,” said James Burgoyne, Director, Brunel Professional Risks. “Solicitors will have to be very careful in the future to file their costs budgets ahead of procedural deadlines, otherwise they may face claims for negligence from clients who are unable to recover their legal costs. We strongly advise that our clients have clear procedures to meet deadlines as part of their risk management procedures.”