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Retail e-briefing: Jackson budget report

  • United Kingdom
  • Retail - E-briefings


Mitchell v News Group Newspapers


  1. Failure to provide a costs estimate 7 days before the CMC has led to an approved budget of Court fees only
  2. The fact that notice was given by the court 4 days before the CMC was not good reason for the failure

The Jackson reforms, which came into force on April have brought with it, a number of measures designed to control the costs of litigation, one of the main planks of which is the requirement of each party to file budgets with the court at least 7 days before the first Case Management Conference (CMC), and to meet with opponents to discuss budgets and assumptions, and indeed other issues such as directions and disclosure choices.

Andrew Mitchell MP may be better known for his Downing Street antics with a policeman, but his name has now become synonymous with the Jackson reforms.

In a case running under the Pre-Jackson Libel Pilot, the same budget requirements which now apply to all litigation matters, Mitchell’s solicitor, Atkins Thomson, have had their budget set at Court fees only having unsuccessfully applied for relief from sanctions imposed for:

  1. Failing to engage with the Defendant in relation to budgets and budget assumptions
  2. Failing to submit their costs budget at least 7 days before the CMC

Application for relief has been refused, but permission to appeal granted. Dealing with the reason for the delay, Master McCloud said:

The explanations put forward by the claimant’s solicitors are not unusual ones. Pressure of work, a small firm, unexpected delays with counsel and so on. These things happen, and I have no doubt they happened here. However, even before the advent of the new rules, the failure of solicitors was generally not treated as in itself a good excuse and I am afraid that however much I sympathise with the claimant’s solicitors, such explanations carry even less weight in the post-Jackson environment.

She went on to say:

I think it is obvious that the sanction is something of a windfall for the defendants, but that is often the way with sanctions… Judicial time is thinly spread, and the emphasis must, if I understand the Jackson reforms correctly, be upon allocating a fair share of time to all as far as possible and requiring strict compliance with rules and orders even if that means that justice can be done in the majority of cases but not all.

In short, the Jackson reforms have the potential to produce rather rough justice but this has to be balanced by the court against the potential cost and the proportionate use of court resources.

One reason advanced by the Claimant’s solicitor for not complying with the budget deadline was that notice of CMC was only received 4 days before the budget was due. In relation to that issue, the Master said:

But having considered this carefully, because it was a point which troubled me, the view I have taken is that the parties were well aware that this was a case for which budgeting would be required from the start and that the mere fact that a date is set for a CMC is not supposed to be the starting gun for proper consideration of budgeting. “Budgeting is something which all solicitors by now ought to know is intended to be integral to the process from the start, and it ought not to be especially onerous to prepare a final budget for a CMC even at relatively short notice if proper planning has been done.

Eversheds have a specialist litigation costs team who prepare budgets and estimates, as well as dealing with tail end costs issues such as Bills of Costs, Detailed assessments and Costs negotiations.

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