The law firm representing Andrew Mitchell MP has confirmed it will continue to fund his Plebgate case against News UK despite losing a £500,000 costs decision.
Atkins Thomson described yesterday’s decision in the Court of Appeal as “unfortunate” but said their client would not lose out financially as a result.
Mitchell’s legal team had sought court approval of a £506,425 budget but because this paperwork had been filed late the application was rejected.
Under new rules to speed up the judicial process, proposed budgets have to be filed with the court seven days before the first case management hearing.
However, in this case, Mitchell’s legal team filed their papers less than 24 hours before the hearing.
As a result, Master McCloud of the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division ruled that Mitchell would only be entitled to the court costs of £1,350.
An appeal against this decision failed yesterday, however this defeat will not derail the planned defamation action.
According to Atkins Thomson: “This is an unfortunate ruling for a variety of reasons but will not affect our focus which is on winning the libel case and vindicating our client. We represent Mr Mitchell on a no win, no fee basis and he will not be affected financially by this judgment."
Mitchell yesterday confirmed that he intends continuing his action against News UK over its coverage of the Plebgate allegations, while News UK said it will defend the case on the basis of justification.
Handing down his judgment, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson said: “The defaults by the claimant’s solicitors were not minor or trivial and there was no good excuse for them. They resulted in an abortive costs budgeting hearing and an adjournment which had serious consequences for other litigants. It seems harsh in the individual case of Mr Mitchell’s claim, if we were to overturn the decision to refuse relief, it is inevitable that the attempt to achieve a chance in culture would receive a major setback.
“In the result, we hope that our decision will send out a clear message. If it does, we are confident that, in time, legal representatives will become more efficient and will routinely comply with rules, practice directions and orders. If this happens, then we would expect that satellite litigation of this kind, which is so expensive and damaging to the civil justice system, will become a thing of the past.”