Coventry and Others v Lawrence and Another: SC 22 Jul 2015

The appellants challenged the compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights of the system for recovery of costs in civil litigation in England and Wales following the passing of the Access to Justice Act 1999. The parties had been involved in very substantial litigation over an alleged nuisance. The claimants’ lawyers had acted under a conditional fee agreement, and were successful at trial. The defendants objected to the payment of a proportion of the success fee payable by the claimants to their solicitors, and of the After the Evenet Insurance premium.
Held: The system was compatible with the defendants’ human rights. The aims of the scheme were, to reduce the burden of legal aid, to discourage weak claims and to facilitate court access. Tyey did so by transferring the burden of costs to an unsuccessful defendant. Those were legitimate aims, and the means were proportionate.
‘there is a powerful argument that the 1999 Act scheme is compatible with the Convention for the simple reason that it is a general measure which was (i) justified by the need to widen access to justice to litigants following the withdrawal of legal aid; (ii) made following wide consultation and (iii) fell within the wide area of discretionary judgment of the legislature and rule-makers to make. On that basis, it is no answer to say that other measures could have been taken which would have operated less harshly on non-rich respondents: the reasoning of the ECtHR at para 110 of the Animal Defenders case is particularly apposite here. ‘


Lord Neuberger, President, Lady Hale, Deputy President, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Dyson, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath


[2015] UKSC 50, [2015] 1 WLR 3485, [2015] 4 Costs LO 507, [2015] WLR(D) 332, [2015] HRLR 16, UKSC 2012/0076


Bailii, WLRD, Bailii Summary, SC 50, SC 2014 46/13, SC 50 Summ, SC 2014 46/13 Summ


European Convention on Human Rights, Access to Justice Act 1999


England and Wales


See AlsoLawrence and Another v Fen Tigers Ltd and Others QBD 4-Mar-2011
The claimants had complained that motor-cycle and other racing activities on neighbouring lands were a noise nuisance, but the court also considered that agents of the defendants had sought to intimidate the claimants into not pursuing their action. . .
See AlsoCoventry (T/A RDC Promotions and Another v Lawrence and Others CA 27-Feb-2012
The appellants, owners of a motor sport racing circuit, appealed against a finding that their activities constituted a nuisance, given that they had planning permissions for the use.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The judge had erred in holding . .
Principal judgmentCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another SC 26-Feb-2014
C operated a motor racing circuit as tenant. The neighbour L objected that the noise emitted by the operations were a nuisance. C replied that the fact of his having planning consent meant that it was not a nuisance.
Held: The neighbour’s . .
Adjourned fromCoventry and Others v Lawrence and Another (No 2) SC 23-Jul-2014
Consequential judgment. Mr Coventry had been found liable in the principle judgment in nuisance to the appellant neighbours. The Court was now asked as to several matters arising. First, to what extent were the defendants’ landlords liable to the . .
CitedStott (Procurator Fiscal, Dunfermline) and Another v Brown PC 5-Dec-2000
The system under which the registered keeper of a vehicle was obliged to identify herself as the driver, and such admission was to be used subsequently as evidence against her on a charge of driving with excess alcohol, was not a breach of her right . .
CitedHome Office v Lownds (Practice Note) CA 21-Mar-2002
The respondent had been ordered to pay costs of over pounds 16,000 in an action for clinical negligence where the final award was only pounds 4,000. The Secretary of State appealed claiming that the costs were disproportionate.
Held: In such . .
CitedCallery v Gray (1) and (2) HL 27-Jun-2002
Success fees and ATE premiums were recoverable
Objection was made to a claimed uplift of 20% sought by the plaintiff’s solicitors. The defendant’s insurers said that there had been little at risk for them.
Held: The system of conditional fees insurance had been introduced to remedy defects . .
CitedAtack v Lee and Another CA 16-Dec-2004
Defendant insurers had challenged conditional fee agreements involving a two stage success fee. Both cases took place before limitations were introduced by Callery v Gray.
Held: It would be wrong to apply Callery v Gray retrospectively. A two . .
CitedCampbell v MGN Ltd (No 2) HL 20-Oct-2005
The appellant sought to challenge the level of costs sought by the claimant after she had succeeded in her appeal to the House. Though a relatively small sum had been awarded, the costs and success fee were very substantial. The newspaper claimed . .
CitedRogers v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council CA 31-Jul-2006
The Court considered the validity of after the event legal expenses insurance and conditional fee agreements schemes, and in particular whether an ATE premium was recoverable by a successful claimant. The damages had been agreed in the sum of pounds . .
CitedAnimal Defenders International, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport HL 12-Mar-2008
The applicant, a non-profit company who campaigned against animal cruelty, sought a declaration of incompatibility for section 321(2) of the 2003 Act, which prevented adverts with political purposes, as an unjustified restraint on the right of . .
CitedMGN Limited v United Kingdom ECHR 24-Oct-2008
The Mirror had published a picture of Naomi Campbell leaving a rehabilitation clinic. They appealed a decision in which having been found to have infringed her privacy by a covertly taken photograph, they had then been ordered to pay very . .
CitedAXA General Insurance Ltd and Others v Lord Advocate and Others SC 12-Oct-2011
Standing to Claim under A1P1 ECHR
The appellants had written employers’ liability insurance policies. They appealed against rejection of their challenge to the 2009 Act which provided that asymptomatic pleural plaques, pleural thickening and asbestosis should constitute actionable . .
CitedSwift v Secretary of State for Justice CA 18-Mar-2013
The claimant appealed against refusal of a declaration that the 1976 Act infringed her human rights. She had been cohabiting for six months, when her partner was killed in an accident at work for which a third party was liable. Because she had not . .
CitedAnimal Defenders International v The United Kingdom ECHR 22-Apr-2013
ECHR (Grand Chamber) Article 10-1
Freedom of expression
Refusal of permission for non-governmental organisation to place television advert owing to statutory prohibition of political advertising: no . .
CitedBank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury (No 2) SC 19-Jun-2013
The bank challenged measures taken by HM Treasury to restrict access to the United Kingdom’s financial markets by a major Iranian commercial bank, Bank Mellat, on the account of its alleged connection with Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic . .
CitedKing v Telegraph Group Ltd CA 18-May-2004
The defendant appealed against interim costs orders made in the claim against it for defamation.
Held: The general power of cost capping measures available to courts were available also in defamation proceedings. The claimant was being . .
CitedSimmons v Castle CA 10-Oct-2012
The court amended its earlier judgment as to the overall increase in the level of damages to be awarded in personal injury cases.
The system enacted in the 1999 Act remains in force in relation to litigation brought pursuant to conditional fee . .
CitedJames and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 21-Feb-1986
The claimants challenged the 1967 Act, saying that it deprived them of their property rights when lessees were given the power to purchase the freehold reversion.
Held: Article 1 (P1-1) in substance guarantees the right of property. Allowing a . .
CitedHalloran v Delaney CA 6-Sep-2002
The claimant had succeeded in his claim for personal injuries, and had issued costs only proceedings. The defendant challenged the ‘success fee’ claimed as part of the conditional fee arrangement.
Held: The costs recoverable were to be . .
CitedIn re Claims Direct Test Cases CA 12-Feb-2003
The parties sought repayment as part of their costs of insurance premiums paid by claimants undertaking litigation.
Held: The underwriters charged andpound;140.00 for each case. Claims Direct charged a premium of andpound;1,250.00 for each . .
CitedKU (A Child) v Liverpool City Council CA 27-Apr-2005
(Practice Note) The solicitor appealed an order which made the success fee payable different at different stages of the court action.
Held: The court had no power to make such an order. To the extent that the CPR might suggest otherwise they . .
CitedCrane v Canons Leisure Centre CA 19-Dec-2007
Sums paid out by a solicitor to his costs draughtsman are profit costs as part of the base costs to which the success fee mark-up under a conditional fee agreement applies, rather than disbursements. The defining characteristic was whether the . .
CitedC (acting by her litigation friend JF) v W CA 19-Dec-2008
The court considered the proper basis for a success fee payable on a conditional fee agreement where, when signed, the defendant had already admitted liability. The claim was by a woman after being injured in a car driven by her brother. By the time . .
CitedMGN Limited v United Kingdom ECHR 18-Jan-2011
The applicant publisher said that the finding against it of breach of confidence and the system of success fees infringed it Article 10 rights to freedom of speech. It had published an article about a model’s attendance at Narcotics anonymous . .

Cited by:

CitedTimes Newspapers Ltd and Others v Flood and Others SC 11-Apr-2017
Three newspaper publishers, having lost defamation cases, challenged the levels of costs awarded against them, saying that the levels infringed their own rights of free speech.
Held: Each of the three appeals was dismissed. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Costs, Human Rights

Updated: 25 September 2022; Ref: scu.550391