THE COUNCIL of Legal Education has pursued a costs order against a former student for the first time in its 143-year history.
The order, made against mature student Cecilia Hulse, was announced by Mr Justice McPherson sitting as a Visitor to the Inns of Court.
The CLE, which argued it had cost almost £34,000 to mount its case, asked for an award of £25,000.
However, McPherson made an order for £15,000, of which Hulse will pay £2,000 immediately. The remaining £13,000 can only be collected by the council with leave of the Visitor.
Hulse, who failed the Bar Vocational Course examinations back in 1992, was
appealing against the assessment system.
She says the CLE – which runs the Inns of Court School of Law – had revised its regulations each year since the advent of the course and many of those who failed
in the past would now pass.
One of up to 40 students who originally considered taking action against the CLE, Hulse had been warned by CLE solicitors that she could face costs of between £50,000 and £100,000.
But she says although the order made against her was a drastic reduction on that figure, she is still “really shocked”.
“I simply can't believe that costs have been brought into an academic investigation when, to my knowledge, they have never been sought by an academic institution or university before,” she says.
CLE secretary John Taylor says although costs have been awarded to the council in the past, the Hulse case is the first time it has taken steps to enforce an order.
“We would only consider doing this if we considered that there were no reasonable grounds for complaint or that complaint was being pursued unreasonably,” says Taylor.