February 7th, 2017 by James Goudie KC

In Taylor v Honiton Town Council [2017] EWHC 101 (Admin) the Court was required to determine costs following an application by Councillor Taylor for judicial review of a decision by the Council to impose sanctions upon him for a breach of its Code of Conduct.  The Council offered to abandon the sanctions and pay his costs shortly after the issue of proceedings. The Court ordered that his costs incurred before the date of the offer should be paid to him by the Council, but that the Council’s costs incurred thereafter should be paid to the Council by him.  He should have accepted the offer.  He achieved nothing of value after rejecting it.  He did no better in Court. His pursuit of the proceedings was not characterised by a genuine attempt to resolve a genuine grievance. Edis J said:

“10.    I consider that, generally, the kind of conduct most relevant to costs is the conduct of the parties in dealing with the dispute once it has arisen rather than conduct which caused it in the first place. This is by no means an inflexible rule, but as a principle is sound. The general rule is that the unsuccessful party pays the successful party’s costs and this follows the resolution of the issues giving rise to the dispute. Conduct only becomes relevant where the court is invited to depart from that general rule.

  1. The successful party in this case was Mr. Taylor in that he secured the quashing of the Decision. However, this is a case where, in my judgment, the interests of justice require a departure from the general rule on conduct grounds. It is an important function of the costs jurisdiction that it operates as an incentive to parties to resolve disputes where possible. … It is also relevant that the claimant failed on the principal argument he made which was contested …”


“27.    This is a very unsatisfactory case. Very substantial costs have been incurred on both sides. This need never have happened. …”



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