Judges dealing with costs budgeting need more training as some do not have the ‘faintest idea’, the new senior costs judge said yesterday.
Master Gordon-Saker, who took on the role this month, said many judges lack the experience and knowledge to deal with costs estimates.
Costs budgeting has been in place in multi-track cases since April 2013 as a result of the Jackson reforms.
Judges were given a one-day seminar in advance of the changes, but Gordon-Saker said this merely concentrated on how to fill in the new Form H rather than make detailed assessments.
He told the Commercial Litigation Association conference that, at one seminar, when judges were presented with a case study of a five-day clinical negligence trial, their costs estimates ranged from £30,000 to £150,000.
Gordon-Saker said: ‘Some district judges have greater experience of costs and are able to come to a figure.
‘For judges required to do something completely alien it’s a difficult task to give them the education and confidence to do it properly.
‘The training dealt with the mechanisms of costs budgeting – there was no training in costs as such.’
Gordon-Saker said the ongoing uncertainty over pre-Jackson costs has seen litigators asking for adjournments. In Coventry v Lawrence , the Supreme Court indicated that the pre-Jackson costs regime may breach the rights of paying parties under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The case is listed for appeal next February, and Gordon-Saker said judges are giving ‘short shrift’ to parties trying to use the case to delay their own costs assessments.
Gordon-Saker said that he sees guideline hourly rates are a necessary tool but called for more flexibility in their use on detailed assessments of costs.
He added that a fresh look at the rates would need more feedback from solicitors, after few contributed to last year’s consultation. Talks are planned with the Law Society to encourage more responses in the next consultation, he revealed.