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Mitchell – Revenge of the Plebs

There can probably no greater example of the saying ‘blown out of proportion’ than the very long running saga that followed a minor altercation between the MP Andrew Mitchell and some rather officious policemen at the gates of Parliament. Not only did the incident provoke a ridiculous amount of news coverage and tabloid time but the  long term legacy of this little contre temps is likely to affect all firms involved in civil litigation and may well signal the death knell for the small and ill resourced firms( or frankly just the very badly organised).

Just before Christmas, the Court of Appeal upheld a very very very strict costs judgment in a landmark case which establishes the court systems extremely hardline approach to costs budgeting.

The Court had refused relief from sanctions to lawyers representing Andrew Mitchell in his libel action against The Sun newspaper in the ubiquitous ‘plebgate’ stories. The two partner firm instructed  had its budget limited to only court fees after failing to submit a figure seven days before the first case management conference.  The small firm had pleaded that they were, well basically small and therefore did not have the right resources to deal with the new Jackson deadlines.  It didn’t wash and it meant that even if the trial had been won, The Sun would have to pay no legal costs

So small and ill resourced firms or even large and ill resourced firms in civil litigation, can end up getting absolutely nothing from a case if they fall foul of Jackson deadlines, even if they win!

It is a harsh regime and one that will make many firms more than a little twitchy. It may be the final push over the edge for some civil litigation practices. Words are powerful and one wrong word can be very powerful indeed

If you would like to know more then please visit our website BCL Legal.

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