A High Court whip lashing

Former Tory chief whip slapped down for costs violation in ‘Plebgate’ case

Lord Justice Jackson’s costs budgeting regime recently arrived at the High Court with a bang. 

Earlier this month Master McCloud took a hard line on the reforms, refusing to give an inch when asked for leniency by a litigant who had missed budget deadlines.

That litigant happened to be Andrew Mitchell MP, the chief whip who held the post for 46 days before standing down because he was alleged to have called a Downing Street policeman a ‘pleb’. The accusation became a minor media sensation.

Mitchell is in the process of pursuing a libel case against The Sun publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) over the story.

There has been one big bump on the road to court, however. Mitchell’s lawyer, Atkins Thomson partner Graham Atkins, failed to get his costs budget to the court as requested seven days before a case management conference.

Budgets are high on the judicial agenda and Master McCloud, as she says herself, is in the vanguard of developing those rules. 

Mitchell (PA)
Mitchell (PA)

Those that fail to comply will be saddled with sanctions. In this case the court has restricted the budget to court costs only.

“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,” comments McCloud.

It is a harsh lesson, and one that is destined be challenged in the Court of Appeal.