A litigation friend who was said to be suffering from depression has been ordered to pay more than £42,000 in costs after a judge found his performance ‘wholly inadequate’.
The judgment in Y v Z centred on financial remedies proceedings arising out of the divorce between Mr Y, the husband, and Dr Z, the wife.
Dr X, as he is referred to in the Family Court judgment, was, for a time, Z’s litigation friend but, from April 2023 had ‘given up doing anything very much in his role’. He later formally applied to be discharged.
The judgment said: ‘Dr X failed to appear (in person or remotely) on 23rd October 2023 and so the wife was left without a litigation friend and without any legal representation.’
His Honour Judge Edward Hess proposed that the October hearing, which was to be a final hearing, should be an interim hearing as ‘the wife not having a litigation friend or lawyer with her’ meant that oral evidence could not be properly challenged in cross-examination.
He said: ‘It would be wrong for me to make any final findings of fact which could not later be challenged or final orders which could, if and when a full hearing with cross-examination has taken place, not be undone.’
The judge added that he could not, and should not, ignore the costs wasted by the abortive hearing.
Dr X was given the opportunity to respond to the costs application against him. He was too unwell to attend the hearing but sent a ‘lengthy email with 10 attachments which explained his position in detail’.
The judge said: ‘I have reached a clear view that the fair and just outcome here is for me to make an order for Dr X to pay the whole of the costs wasted by the hearing this week not being able to be dealt with as a full final hearing and I assess this at £42,128.79, to be paid within 14 days.’
Dr X 'willingly took on the role of litigation friend and his performance has been wholly inadequate,' the judge said. 'I accept that he has not been well, but this fact does not adequately excuse or explain his conduct and he should not escape the consequences of what has happened.'
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