CoA to hear ‘plebgate’ costs challenge after High Court cuts libel budget

The Court of Appeal will decide whether Andrew Mitchell MP can reverse a High Court decision that the cost of his libel action against The Sun should be restricted to the cost of the court fees for the claim.

The Sun

The former chief whip was told earlier this month that his legal spend would be restricted after his lawyer, Atkins Thomson partner Graham Atkins, failed to file a costs budget to the court seven days ahead a case management hearing in June (7 August 2013).

Refusing to lift the order, Master McCloud said it was imperative for all lawyers to abide by the costs regime as set down by Lord Justice Jackson and implemented on 1 April (1 April 2013).

She highlighted: “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.” 

The costs judge said there was “no evidence” that restricting legal spend would cause prejudice to Mitchell, adding: “It would be for him to demonstrate that and it would be wrong of me to make assumptions about the wording of his CFA agreement with his solicitors which may or may not mean that my sanction affects him financially or in terms of legal representation.”

Temple Garden Chambers costs silk Simon Browne QC is to lead the case in the CoA having been instructed by Atkins.

The case was referred to the appellate court on Wednesday and will be decided by three of the five appellate justices appointed to hear Jackson-related challenges by the Master of the Rolls (MR) Lord Dyson in May (29 May 2013).

Jackson LJ was appointed to the specialist bench alongside Lord Dyson MR, the deputy head of civil justice Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justices Davis and Lewison.

The outcome of the appeal will provide the basis for the libel costs budgeting regime going forward.

Atkins was instructed to launch the case against The Sun publishers, News Group Newspapers, in March. This came after the tabloid splashed claims that Mitchell had sworn at a police officer at the gates to Downing Street across its front page last September.

News Group Newspapers, the publishing giant behind The Sun, has turned to Simons Muirhead partner Louis Charalambous to defend the case with barrister Roger Mallalieu of 4 New Square instructed.

For more on the budgeting regime and how it is impacting this dispute read our litigation blog: How The Sun is helping shape the Jackson era