The Legal Aid Board (LAB) has admitted to getting its sums wrong in the amount of costs it is seeking to recover from a divorcee six years after the costs were taxed.
Pauline Fawzi divorced her husband Mohamed Faisal Fawzi in 1987 but racked up legal aid costs of over £12,000 in dozens of court hearings over custody of the children, ownership of the house and maintenance payments.
When she won the house Mrs Fawzi, a nurse, could not afford to pay back the LAB out of her earnings so the LAB followed its standard procedure of putting a charge on her house so that when she sells it, the money will be recovered.
However, her ex-husband, a doctor in Fife, Scotland, was ordered to pay two-thirds of her costs for one part of the court proceedings and all her costs of a separate High Court appeal – the total sum was £5,193.
An LAB spokesman said that there seemed to have been “confusion” on both sides about what costs the two-thirds had applied to.
Mrs Fawzi thought that the two-thirds applied to all her costs and that her ex-husband therefore owed her £8,000. The LAB at first agreed. Chief executive Steve Orchard even wrote to her MP last July agreeing that Mr Fawzi owed £8,000.
However, the LAB now says that the two-thirds reduction only applies to part of her costs. Interest is added onto the charge on her house and she now owes the LAB about £13,000 in total.