Technical 15 January 2021 Eleanor Goodridge

Worth your time

Eleanor Goodridge assesses the impact of a recent England and Wales High Court case on uplifted guideline hourly rates for Court of Protection assessments

In the recent decision in the linked cases of PLK & Ors (Court of Protection: Costs),1 Master Whalan of the Senior Courts Costs Office (the SCCO) commented that ‘in 2020 the [guideline hourly rates] cannot be applied reasonably or equitably without some form of monetary uplift’.

The case dealt with the assessment of four bills of costs, which the court consolidated, relating to the costs incurred by court-appointed deputies in the England and Wales Court of Protection (CoP). The hourly rates claimed in each bill sought an uplift of approximately 31 per cent to the guideline hourly rates (GHR) to reflect retail price index inflation between 2010 and 2019.

The GHR

The GHR are the hourly rates that judges are advised to apply when assessing solicitors’ costs, incurred on behalf of protected parties and as between parties to court proceedings.

These rates were last reviewed in 2010. Prior to that, revised rates were issued regularly by the SCCO until 2006, from 2007 revisions were issued by the Master of the Rolls following reports from the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs. However, in 2010 that responsibility passed to the Costs Committee of the Civil Justice Council (the Committee). Having been instructed to undertake ‘a comprehensive, evidence-based review’ of the nature of the GHR and make recommendations to the Master of the Rolls, in its report, issued in May 2014,2 the Committee raised concerns about the nature of the evidence that had been gathered. The Committee commented that ‘the datum which had been gathered in respect of GHR was insufficiently strong to form the basis of a comprehensive, evidence-based review’.

The GHR have, therefore, not been revised since 2010. Of course, since 2010, hourly rates, salaries and inflation have all increased. It is therefore widely claimed from within the legal profession and, indeed, more recently from the senior judiciary, that the GHR are outdated.

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