A solicitor was forced to revise his witness statement mid-hearing - and given just an hour to do so - after the judge suggested he was in serious danger of misleading the court in a costs claim. 

In Evans v Pinsent Masons LLP, the Honourable Mr Justice Martin Spencer said the original witness statement from the claimant’s solicitors contained 'very bald inconsistency' about the details of its application for relief from sanction.

The claimant was a former client of international firm Pinsent Masons who had sought detailed consideration of costs bills. This was rejected by the court and an appeal was sought, with the claimant given a 28 May deadline for renewing an application for an extension of time.

On 30 May, the claimant's solicitors, London firm Silver Shemmings Ash, wrote to the court saying that was the final day to renew the application. The court therefore accepted 30 May as the correct date and granted the extension. Pinsent Masons then wrote to the court saying it had been 'seriously misled' by the claimant solicitors.

At a hearing in June, the details of which were reported on Bailii this week, it was revealed the judge had warned the claimant's solicitors risked a potential finding they had 'deliberately and falsely' misled the court by suggesting the application was in time, when they knew it had been made out of time.

After adjourning for just over an hour, solicitor Henry Hathaway, from Silver Shemmings Ash, filed a new statement in which he accepted the wording of the original witness statement was 'terrible' but said there was never any attempt to mislead the court.

The judge responded that the position was 'evidentially extremely unsatisfactory' even after the further evidence. He concluded there was 'no adequate explanation' why the court was, on one view, 'seriously misled' by the first witness statement. The alternative and worse view, the judge said, was that Hathaway knew 'perfectly well' his application was two days out of time, but he attempted to 'pull the wool over the court's eyes', hoping to induce the court to issue a notice of hearing without querying the matter.

The judge said that had the court previously known the full position it would not have granted relief from sanction. That decision was therefore overturned and the defendant's application for reconsideration allowed.