Edward Williams v East Northamptonshire District Council

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeAlexander Nissen
Judgment Date07 March 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] EWHC 470 (Admin)
Date07 March 2016
Docket NumberCO/5112/2015

[2016] EWHC 470 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2A 2LL

Before:

Alexander Nissen QC

(Siting as a Deputy High Court Judge)

CO/5112/2015

Between:
Edward Williams
Appellant
and
East Northamptonshire District Council
Respondent

The Appellant appeared in person

Ms F Iveson (instructed by LGSS Law Ltd) appeared on behalf of the Respondent

POST JUDGMENT DISCUSSION

1

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: For the reasons set out in the judgment which I am now handing down I answer the three questions set out in the Case Stated "yes" and as such affirm the determination in those respects. Accordingly I dismiss the appellant's appeal by way of case stated.

2

I now deal with the question of costs.

3

MS IVESON: My Lord, can I just confirm that there are two costs schedules relied upon in this case by those instructing me. The first one was submitted prior to the last hearing and there has been additional costs accrued since that hearing in relation to questions that were set by the court on the last occasion. Those were emailed to the court and to Mr Williams. I have hard copies here if they would assist.

4

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: No, I have those, thank you.

5

You have got a copy, have you?

6

THE APPELLANT: Yes, they sent me another bill.

7

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: So far as the costs are concerned, I anticipate your application is to be paid those costs as set out in the schedule, is it?

8

MS IVESON: My Lord, yes, and I know I will have an opportunity to respond to Mr Williams in a moment but in general the costs claimed in this case are relatively modest. The hourly rate claimed by those instructing me is £87 an hour. My Lord, as you know at a commercial rate that would be three or four times that amount at least and in addition, my Lord, I refer you to the order of Ouseley J on 26 November 2015 in which he —

9

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Sorry, is this about the protective costs order?

10

MS IVESON: It is, my Lord. That is at 72 and 73 of the trial bundle, and what was said by Ouseley J is that the manner in which the appellant conducts the case may add somewhat to the costs but that is because he is imposing costs on others rather than paying for a lawyer to advise him. My Lord, it is also said that this is not a particularly costly process. Part of the reason the costs are as they are is because we have had two applications prior to the appeal hearing itself, one for a protective costs order, as you know, my Lord, and one for a conversion of the case into JR. It is also right that my instructing solicitors have received email after email after email from the appellant and those have had to be dealt with. In relation to my fee, my Lord, many of the emails in this case have been dealt with by me at no cost at all to those instructing me and the rates that I have claimed are less than what I would get paid in a legal aid extradition case for instance. So really the costs claimed in this case have been very modest from all parties. My Lord, perhaps I will let Mr Williams make his submissions on costs and I can respond to those in more detail if necessary.

11

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Mr Williams, I have obviously got your written note of 1 March, so you can take it I have read that.

12

THE APPELLANT: Since then they've sent another bill here. Basically, costs have to be proportionate. This was not a complex case, there were only two issues here. One was whether or not they could put a claim for costs on a summons. The other was actually the £75 pounds. An extremely straightforward case. The overriding thing is costs have to be reasonable and proportionate. I don't think this is an honest bill of costs. If I could ask you to look at, please, the first bill they put in. They've claimed for — this is on the final page of their summary — 5 hours to put this together. Grade A is the best grade of solicitor there is, in other words an expert lawyer. There is no possible way this could take 5 hours to put together. If we look at the second bill, there's been almost no work done since the final hearing and yet they're expecting you to believe, or the court to believe rather, that they spent one and a half hours putting together this summary of costs. I say that's blatantly — if we add that all together, they say it took six and a half hours for an expert lawyer to put together this bill of costs. I just say that just is impossible, particularly for the last one. How on earth can it take one and a half hours? This is a printout, on the last page — this is a printout from an Excel spreadsheet. It doesn't take one and a half hours to do this. The way that I'm asking you to approach this is that if someone comes to the court and puts a bill forward which is not just exaggerated but is a lie, then you should award them nothing because if you don't all you do it embolden people to come and tell you a pack of lies again. There is just no way on earth that you can take one and a half hours to put this together. As for the lower rate charge, counsel's told you that this is lower than commercial rate. This is an in-house job. LGSS Law Limited is owned by Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire County Councils. I contacted David Williams, who's the solicitor who did this, and asked them: "Where do you get the figure of £87 from? Can you give a calculation so I can give it to the court?" And he said, "£87 is what we charge", not, "Where do we get that figure from?" As this is a wholly owned — this body is wholly owned by the local authorities, which is Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, they're not supposed to make a profit out of this, they're supposed to cover their costs. But they're not trying to cover their costs here, what they're trying to do is gouge me, which is why they've said it took a solicitor on Grade A all together six and a half hours to put this together. That's practically a whole working day to put these two bills together. If you look at the actual breakdown, if you look at the first bill, the amount of hours he claims to have spent, on page 1, this is letters out to the respondent: 13.4 hours. That's nearly two full working days sending emails to the council. I mean, what on earth could the council tell him that requires thirteen and a half hours of work? 2.6 hours on the phone to the council on top of that. Attendances on opponents, he's put 3.7 hours on there. All I ever got from him was one line emails when we're doing things like exchanging documents, I acknowledge receipt. 3.7 hours again is absolutely ridiculous. Attendance on counsel, 10.7 hours sending letters and emails plus 5.7 hours on the telephone, 16.4 hours. So he's claiming for more than two full working days to be in touch with counsel. That's on top of drafting instructions. I mean, this just beggars belief, you know. I say it's a pack of lies and it's very short on detail. Can I ask you to look at the final page, please, of the first schedule.

13

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: You have no basis for saying it is a pack of lies.

14

THE APPELLANT: All right, it's either that or it's how else can you couch it politely, say it's a gross exaggeration?

15

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: You can properly submit that. You have got no material to say it is a pack of lies.

16

THE APPELLANT: Okay, well, I say it's a gross exaggeration. But if we look at the last page, it says Lucy Hodgson's witness statement: 1.9 hours. Now, this is apparently put together by an expert lawyer who should be able to do work quickly. If we actually look at their witness statement, which I've brought here, that's the heading there and this is the actual text, it's about a third of a page.

17

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Is that in the bundle?

18

THE APPELLANT: Would you like to see my copy?

19

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Just give me the reference.

20

THE APPELLANT: I don't know the page number, I didn't bring the whole thing with me.

21

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: I will have a quick look.

22

THE APPELLANT: There we are.

23

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Thank you.

24

THE APPELLANT: Does that take an expert lawyer, the best in the business, Grade A, 1.9 hours?

25

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: I am sure not to write the text of it because the text of it is a page but within that will be the time taken to do the work which is identified in paragraph 2. They have to read your application, they have to check email correspondence, make enquiries with the Land Registry, make enquiries on Right Move, make enquiries with Equifax, collate the bundle and exhibit it and draw the conclusions from the enquiries.

26

THE APPELLANT: Yes, but that's been done by the council, someone working at the council.

27

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: She says that she has carried out those activities.

28

THE APPELLANT: Sorry? Yeah, she's done that.

29

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Yes, the solicitor will have to check it, I should imagine.

30

THE APPELLANT: As regards the second bill, the respondent's submissions on remedy: £400 I think is grossly — that's counsel's fees — I think that's grossly excessive, and £300 here today for what's going to be a very short hearing is again grossly excessive.

31

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: Well, the submissions on remedy involved three or four Excel spreadsheets, did it not?

32

THE APPELLANT: Sorry?

33

THE DEPUTY JUDGE: There were three or four Excel spreadsheets with the different alternative valuations which were relevant to the remedy and I think four or five authorities referred to in the skeleton argument, which in the event I did not have to consider but they would have been material. In fact, there were two skeletons because there were further...

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