|Lord Phillips hands down the judgment|
The correct approach to be taken to ordering costs against public authorities in fact-finding hearings in care proceedings.
The respondents were interveners in a fact-finding hearing in care proceedings brought by the appellant. Having been exonerated at the end of the fact-finding hearing, the respondents’ application for costs was refused by the trial judge. The respondents were granted permission to appeal and succeeded on their appeal on the basis that the judge had misapplied the law.
The local authority's appeal was allowed unanimously. The Court held that the general practice of not awarding costs in care proceedings against a party, including a local authority, in the absence of reprehensible behaviour or an unreasonable stance, should not be subject to an exception in the case of discrete fact-finding hearings. In this case it was common ground that the local authority could not be criticised for advancing in the proceedings the allegations against the respondents.
The full judgment can be read here, and a press summary here.