Costs News

10 September 2020
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Mr Justice Stewart named as head of guideline hourly rates review

High Court judge Sir Stephen Stewart has been appointed by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, to lead the Civil Justice Council (CJC) working group reviewing the guideline hourly rates (GHR).

Mr Justice Stewart is a well-known figure in the costs world, having made many important rulings, and other members of the group include Senior Costs Judge Andrew Gordon-Saker, His Honour Judge Bird (the Designated Civil Judge in Greater Manchester) and District Judge Simon Middleton, as well as practitioners, consumers and the Ministry of Justice. The ACL has a representative on the group.

The group’s remit is to conduct an evidence-based review of the basis and amount of the GHR and to make recommendations to the deputy head of civil justice, Lord Justice Coulson, and to the CJC.

Sir Stephen said the group has resolved to obtain evidence as to what is allowed by regional costs judges and in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO). He said the GHRs were particularly useful as a guide for judges who were inexperienced in costs. “What costs judges in fact allow across a range of cases will be a highly important contribution to the report which the group has to prepare.”

The group has distributed two forms electronically, which can be obtained from the ACL office (enquiries@costslawyer.co.uk). The first is an Excel spreadsheet intended to provide information on assessments between 1 April 2019 and 31 August 2020, and also obtain evidence, if available, of agreement reached between legal professionals as to hourly rates whether or not there has been an assessment by a judge. Sir Stephen said respondents could alternatively submit extracts from their management information.

The data will be treated in the strictest confidence and the group has asked for it as soon as possible and not later than 31 October. Send it to CJC.GHR@judiciary.uk

The second form deals with costs assessments between 1 September 2020 and 27 November 2020, which practitioners are asked to fill in as much as they can as soon as possible after each assessment (rather than just selected cases). The form is provided as a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet, or can be complete online here.

Sir Stephen wrote: “A number of professional organisations have been contacted about this exercise and more than one may ask you to respond. Please ensure that evidence about one assessment is not duplicated.

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of your help in this regard. Your professional experience, reflected in the supply of information, will serve to guide the working group in producing its report. If the recommendations in the report are accepted, the benefit to the judiciary, the legal profession and court users as a whole will be very substantial.

“I appreciate that you are all busy. The forms have been kept as short as possible. I would be very grateful if you would consider this task as a matter of priority. As the responses arrive, the intention is that the information will be considered and collated. It is hoped that a draft report will be ready for full consultation by the end of 2020.”

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