Coram Children’s Legal Centre has won an important case on legal costs in tribunal proceedings

MG v Cambridgeshire County Council (SEN) [2017] UKUT 0172 (AAC)

CCLC brought a successful appeal to Upper Tribunal* on costs incurred in First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability**) against a local authority.

The Upper Tribunal judge’s decision is important because the judge has carefully set out the law and procedure which should apply to these sorts of applications for costs in the First Tier Tribunal and also offered guidance on best practice.

The decision is also significant for legal aid lawyers who have cases before the First Tier Tribunal and will possibly have broader application in other areas of law which are dealt with by the First Tier Tribunal - such as immigration and asylum and welfare benefits. We hope it will deter local authorities from prolonging appeals which they have no prospects of defending, thereby avoiding further delay to the child or young person accessing necessary provision for their special educational needs.

The judge said: “it may be helpful if I were to give some guidance on the approach to be taken by the First-tier Tribunal in assessing the amount of costs under rule 10 of the 2008 Rules.”

The case involved CCLC’s Legal Practice Unit’s acting for a parent of a child with special educational needs. The case is important because having successfully appealed against various sections of the child’s education, health and care plan before the First Tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability), we made an application for costs against the respondent local authority for our costs. This is the issue that ultimately became before the Upper Tribunal for a decision.

We argued that the local authority’s conduct was such that it justified making an order for costs because their conduct led to us having to incur significant and unnecessary costs in continuing to deal with the First Tier Tribunal appeal case.

The main focus of our work was the child’s education, health and care plan and our work in supporting the parent to bring an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal in order to secure the right special educational provision for the child. However, costs in the First Tier Tribunal are rare and we believed that the local authority had acted unreasonably in defending the appeal, which is why we applied for costs.

Read more about the case here and read the full decision here.