A sole practitioner ordered to explain to a judge why she should not pay wasted costs as a result of two adjourned hearings estimates that she and her counsel have spent about £15,000 worth of time highlighting the financial risk that high street firms regularly take.
Aygul Hussein, of east London firm Hussein Solicitors, was required to appear at Snaresbook Crown Court last Monday to explain why the court should not make a wasted costs order in relation to prosecution costs incurred last month.
Hussein Solicitors first encountered the defendant in its capacity as police station duty solicitor. The defendant said he received universal credit. The firm instructed an agent to attend court to represent him the following day. The defendant pleaded guilty to multiple charges and was committed to Snaresbrook Crown Court for sentence. The firm requested an adjournment pending the outcome of its legal aid application. Later that week, the firm informed the court that it would not be able to represent the defendant any further due to being unable to progress the application without an NI number.
After sentencing the defendant last Monday, His Honour Judge Murray Shanks told David Hislop QC, representing Hussein Solicitors: ‘I still don’t understand. Why could they not have got his national insurance number on the morning of the [adjourned sentencing hearing] having sent someone to represent him?’
Hislop explained that there was ‘no guarantee, sadly, that the defendant will cooperate and provide [the national insurance number]. If it’s not provided [legal aid] will not be granted’.
He added: ‘Is it reasonable to expect a firm of solicitors who have no confidence they will receive a grant of legal aid, is it reasonable to expect them to take the financial risk of instructing counsel and to attend, and we again say a resounding “no”?’
Shanks said he would not be making a wasted costs order. Hussein Solicitors was given 14 days to apply for costs.