08.07.2014Westminster College of Computing Ltd. v Revenue & Customs  UKFTT 669 (TC)
Key areas: unreasonable conduct; party’s conduct; First-Tier Tribunal (Tax)
This was an application by HMRC for costs following on from the strike-out of an appeal.
The Tribunal noted that 6 months before the hearing, HMRC advised the Appellant that the FTT had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal; that it was the Appellant’s third appeal on the same basic grounds; and that it had already been told the appeal was an abuse of process.
As a result, the Tribunal held the Appellant was unreasonable in bringing the proceedings, and so held that HMRC was entitled to its costs.
04.07.2014Denton; Denton; Denton; v TH White Ltd. & De Laval Ltd.; Decadent Vapours Ltd. v Bevan; Salter; Celtic Vapours Ltd.; Utilise TDS Ltd. v Davies; Bolton Community College Corp.; Watertrain Ltd.  EWCA Civ 906
Key areas: relief from sanction; costs budgets; Court of Appeal
This was a hearing to deal with three separate appeals over relief from sanctions. They all followed on from the Mitchell ruling and its impact.
In Denton, the Claimant served 6 witness statements 18 months after the deadline for service, but 1 month before the trial started. The Judge allowed them to be used, but the trial was adjourned. The Defendant appealed.
In Decadent, the Claimant tried to pay Court fees in accordance with an Unless Order, but the cheque went missing in the DX or at the Court itself. The parties were unaware until a Pre-trial Review, and the fees were paid 2 days later. Relief from sanction was refused.
In Utilise, the Claimant filed a Costs Budget 45 minutes late, under an Order which stated that only Court fees would apply if it was late. The Claimant was also 13 days late of complying with an Order stating that the Court must be advised of the outcome of negotiations. Relief was refused to the combination of the two breaches.
The Court held that while Mitchell itself was “substantially sound”, there were problems in its interpretation.
It held that Judges should apply a 3-stage approach:
- Identify the seriousness of the breach;
- Why it occurred/was there a good reason?; and
- Take into account “all the circumstances”, such as the impact of the breach; promptness of an application for relief; or the compliance with previous Orders
Taking into account this approach, the Court overturned the ruling in Denton due to the lateness, its impact, and lack of a good reason; the ruling in Decadent was also overturned given its impact, and the minor effect the breach had; in Utilise, the appeal was allowed because a 45-minute delay was trivial, and had no impact upon the case as a whole. The Court also stated the Defendants in both Decadent and Utilise should have consented to relief being granted.
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