The local authority had refused to renew a private hire vehicle licence. That refusal was successfully challenged, and the magistrates had awarded costs on the basis that they should follow the event. The authority appealed.
Held: The discretion given to magistrates to award such costs as it feels are just and reasonable does not mean that costs should always and normally follow the event. An authority with a duty to make decisions which suffered a successful challenge to that decision, but where the fault in the decision fell short of being unreasonable, dishonest, or improper, should not normally be ordered to pay the costs. The financial effect on the parties should be assessed, but such challenges are part of the expense of running a business. Section 64 was concerned with both liability for costs and their amount. The only statutory restriction on the power of the magistrates was that they could not make an order for costs against a successful party.
Bingham CJ said: ‘The issue in this appeal by case stated is whether justices erred in the exercise of their discretion by awarding costs against a local authority on a successful complaint against a vehicle licensing decision of the local authority when the local authority had not, in making the decision appealed against, acted unreasonably or in bad faith.’
Later he continued ‘It seems to me that the justices in this case misdirected themselves, first, in relying on a principle that costs should follow the event, that misdirection being compounded by their view that the reference in section 64 to the order being just and reasonable applied to quantum only. On the other hand, in my judgment the submissions made by Mr Blair-Gould on behalf of the local authority go too far the other way since to give effect to the principle for which he contends would deprive the justices of any discretion to view the case in the round which is in my judgment what section 64 intends.
I would accordingly hold that the proper approach to questions of this kind can for convenience be summarised is three propositions:
1. Section 64(1) confers a discretion upon a magistrates’ court to make such order as to costs as it thinks just and reasonable. That provision applies both to the quantum of the costs (if any) to be paid, but also as to the party (if any) which should pay them.
2. What the court will think just and reasonable will depend on all the relevant facts and circumstances of the case before the court. The court may think it just and reasonable that costs should follow the event, but need not think so in all cases covered by the subsection.
3. Where a complainant has successfully challenged before justices an administrative decision made by a police or regulatory authority acting honestly, reasonably, properly and on grounds that reasonably appeared to be sound, in exercise of its public duty, the court should consider, in addition to any other relevant fact or circumstances, both (i) the financial prejudice to the particular complainant in the particular circumstances if an order for costs is not made in his favour; and (ii) the need to encourage public authorities to make and stand by honest, reasonable and apparently sound administrative decisions made in the public interest without fear of exposure to undue financial prejudice if the decision is successfully challenged.’
Silber J, Lord Bingham of Cornhill
Times 31-May-2000, (2000) COD 338, (2000) 164 JP 485
Magistrates Courts Act 1980 64(1), Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 62(1)(b)
Cited – Regina v Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court, ex parte Chief Constable Dyfed Powys Police QBD 9-Nov-1998
The Chief Constable, on good grounds, objected to the transfer of a justices’ on-licence to a Mrs W. Mrs W appealed and the Chief Constable, having objected to the transfer, became a respondent. On the appeal Mrs W contended that, since the conduct . .
Cited – Regina v Totnes Licensing Justices, ex parte Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall QBD 28-May-1990
The court considered the award of costs in a licensing case. Roch J said: ‘There can be no doubt that in civil proceedings between litigants, be it in the High Court or county court, the principle is that costs follow the event. The winning party . .
Cited – Chief Constable of Derbyshire v Goodman and Newton Admn 2-Apr-1998
Firearms licences were granted to the two respondents, but then revoked by the Chief Constable. They appealed to the Crown Court and their appeal was allowed. The judge, however, ordered the Chief Constable to pay the costs of the two respondents, . .
Cited – Baxendale-Walker v The Law Society Admn 30-Mar-2006
The solicitor appealed being struck off. He had given a character reference in circumstances where he did not have justification for the assessment.
Held: ‘The appellant knew that Barclays Bank trusted him to provide a truthful reference. . .
Cited – Cambridge City Council v Alex Nestling Ltd QBD 17-May-2006
The council appealed an award of costs against it. The respondent had appealed against a refusal by the council to vary a premises licence for a public house with partial success, and the magistrates had awarded the respondent half its costs.
Cited – Mastercard UK Members Forum Ltd Mastercard International Inc CAT 28-Jul-2006
Cited – Perinpanathan, Regina (on The Application of) v City of Westminster Magistrates Court and Another CA 4-Feb-2010
The appellant’s daughter had been stopped entering the country with andpound;150,000 in cash. The police sought an order for its forfeiture, suspecting a link with terrorism. The magistrates found no evidence of such, and declined to make the order, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Magistrates, Local Government, Costs, Licensing
Updated: 18 May 2022; Ref: scu.78542