A High Court judge has penalised a party £2,240 for submitting a statement of costs just three hours before the scheduled hearing.

Media agency Carat had been an interested party in a court dispute between rival Group M and the Cabinet Office. A hearing earlier this month decided in favour of the Cabinet Office and against Group M, who had come second in a tendering process behind Carat.

The costs bill submitted by Carat’s solicitors, magic circle firm Slaughter and May, was £70,072 in total – a bill which Group M contested.

The bill included counsel’s fees of £20,000, £6,265 for attendance at the hearing and £32,581 for work on documents.

But the issue was clouded by Carat submitting its statement of costs just three hours before the hearing. The practice direction requires this should usually be filed at least 24 hours in advance.

Mr Justice Akenhead (pictured), who referenced both Mitchell and Denton in his summary, said the late notice was both ‘serious and significant’ as it gave Group M, represented by magic circle firm Freshfields, insufficient time to prepare its response.

But the judge said he could ‘totally understand’ why the default occurred as Carat had so little time from the end of settlement discussions to the hearing to prepare the statement of costs. He also said the breach had no bearing on the hearing itself and took as little as 15 extra minutes of his time to deal with later.

Akenhead suggested it would be ‘disproportionate’ to deny Carat all costs and instead imposed a ‘delay discount’ of £2,240.

On the other costs claimed, the judge said Carat had a legitimate interest in the case but conceded its hours claimed were ‘excessive’ in the light of its limited role in proceedings.

He deducted a total of £29,945 and therefore assessed the overall bill of costs payable as £40,127.