Harrison v Tew: HL 1990

The court considered whether a court could order an assessment of a solicitor’s bill of costs more than 12 months after it had been paid. It was argued that the Court has no power to order taxation under section 70(4) outside the statutory period of 12 months after the bill has been paid, and the wording of the sub-section is such as to exclude any inherent jurisdiction to order taxation which the Court might otherwise have had.
Held: Lord Lowry: ‘The question for decision is whether section 70(4) of the Solicitors Act 1974 precludes an application for taxation of a solicitor’s bill of costs by the party chargeable after the expiration of 12 months from the payment of the bill or whether, not withstanding the wording of that sub-section, the Court has an inherent jurisdiction to order taxation’ The ordinary jurisdiction does co-exist with the statutory scheme. When considering the argument that ‘a client who had been grossly over-charged would have no remedy once he had been careless or unfortunate enough to fall foul of the 12-month time limit’, Lord Lowry went on: ‘But it has to be said that in some cases the solicitor will have deducted his costs from money received on the client’s behalf, in which case the client could sue under the ordinary jurisdiction described in In re Park ‘ and ‘I turn now to the appellant’s arguments based on Section 50(2) which preserves the jurisdiction over solicitors that the court possessed before Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873. In the first place, that jurisdiction must be considered as affected by, for example, Section 41 of the Act of 1843 and secondly it is ‘subject to the provisions of this Act’ including Section 70(4). The thrust of Mr Tugendhat’s argument was that it would be absurd to have disciplinary jurisdiction over a solicitor who had overcharged a client without also having power to refer the offending bill for taxation. I think, with respect, that this argument confuses two different powers: one is the power under Section 70 to refer a bill for taxation on the application of the party chargeable; the other is the power to refer a bill to the taxing master for ‘assessment’ or ‘moderation’ in aid of disciplinary proceedings when a prima facie case of overcharging has been made out by the party aggrieved.’ Judgment of Court of Appeal upheld.


Lord Lowry


[1990] 2 AC 523


Solicitors Act 1974 70(4)


England and Wales


Appeal fromHarrison v Tew CA 1989
The client sought only taxation of his solicitor’s bill of costs, but more than twelve months after the bill had been paid, if not under the statutory provisions, then under the ‘inherent jurisdiction’ of the Court.
Held: Any inherent . .

Cited by:

CitedBarclays Plc v Villers ComC 25-Jan-2000
Re-insurers refused to pay the costs re-imbursed by the insurers to the claimant of conducting the defence of a court action, saying that they were excessive. They sought a detailed assessment of the bill. The defendants argued that this matter . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions

Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.216338