Inequality of Arms in Civil Contempt Proceedings


Costs Judge Leonard sitting in the Senior Courts Costs Office has recently given judgment in London Victoria Insurance Co Ltd v (1) Kamar Abbas Khan and Others.  The Costs Judge had to decide several preliminary issues in a detailed assessment of the costs of the Claimant and the Fourth Defendant following committal proceedings, including whether the Fourth Defendant was limited to recover the applicable rates set out in the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) Regulations 2013, and whether the Claimant’s CCFA was unlawful under section 5858A of the Court and Legal Services Act 1990.

In respect of the first issue the Costs Judge ruled that because the Fourth Defendant was not able to rely on any primary or secondary legislation that disapplied the indemnity principle, the Fourth Defendant could only recover from the Claimant the limited costs set out in the 2013 Regulations.   Had the Fourth Defendant been granted civil legal aid, he could have relied upon regulation 21 of the Civil Legal Aid (Costs) regulations 2013 which expressly disapply the indemnity principle.

As to the second issue, although the Judge hearing the civil committal proceedings had ruled that they were “criminal proceedings” for the purposes of the Legal Aid, and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Costs Judge decided that for the purposes of section 58/58A of the 1990 Act they were not “criminal proceedings” and the Claimant’s CCFA was lawful.

This case demonstrates the inequality of arms that a defendant funded by Criminal Legal Aid in civil contempt proceedings will face when fighting serious allegations made by a well-funded claimant.

James Newman acted for the Fourth Defendant instructed by Kush Verma of Avisons Solicitor.