Lecturer counts cost of injunction ruling

Roger Pearson reports on the efforts of a university lecturer's bid to challenge an order to pay unexpectedly high legal costs.

A Cambridge University history lecturer is to challenge an award of legal costs made against her after she failed to obtain a court injunction against the university.

Dr Gillian Evans, of the faculty of history, West Road, Cambridge, who has campaigned for many years to reform the university's promotion procedure, applied for promotion to a post as chairwoman. Her application was to be heard by the history faculty committee.

She argued the committee could be biased against her and it should make a "declaration of interest" and decline to hear her application.

After the university authorities refused to contemplate her request for a differently constituted committee, she sought a county court injunction preventing the committee from hearing her application in June this year.

However, after a hearing which was estimated to last an hour but which ended up extending over two days, Judge Ludlow at Cambridge County Court dismissed Evans' application. And she went on to order her to pay more than £9,000 in costs.

Evans has now been given leave by the Court of Appeal to challenge that costs order.

In applying for leave, Evans, who represented herself, told Lords Justices Henry and Waller that the university's costs bill had been unreasonable and that the county court judge had failed to reduce the excessive amounts claimed.

In granting leave, Lord Justice Waller said that it could be argued that the judge should not have assessed the costs. It was apparent that she was unfamiliar with the new assessment procedure introduced following the Woolf Civil Procedure Reforms.

Through no fault of Evans, the case had run over because of pressure of business on the court lists, and the new procedure did not envisage immediate assessment after a lengthy trial, especially where, as in this case, a detailed assessment could have taken place quite quickly as the case was at an end.

It could be said that the university's claim for costs had been on the high side. It was cause for comment that the extension of a second day had increased the costs by £4,000, which was the amount claimed by the university legal team for taking a note of the judge's ruling.

The university had thought fit to instruct expensive London solicitors and counsel to deal with what was a relatively simple case, and was a luxury which perhaps it should be expected to fund itself.