Judge: Senior Judge Hilder
Citation:  EWCOP 14
In this case the Public Guardian made applications in respect of the deputyships (some 44) of Matrix Deputies Limited (and 2 of its former employees). The Public Guardian sought revocation of the orders and refusal of appointments in pending cases.
The case concerned deputyships in the London Borough of Enfield that had arisen out of an out-sourcing arrangement between the borough and Matrix. The allegations were serious. Broadly they were:
The 2 individuals agreed at relatively early stages to orders in respect of their deputyships but Matrix continued to contest the applications until, after 20 months litigation, it agreed that their deputyships should be revoked and no further ones made.
Given that Matrix admitted some allegations that were serious in themselves, namely taking commissions from estate agents on the sale of 3 properties and they only gave full disclosure after the court had made an order permitting entry on their premises to obtain documents, the concession was probably inevitable.
That left the issue of costs. The borough sought its costs from Matrix on the indemnity basis, Matrix argued for no order.
The Judge set out the relevant law from R (Boxall) v Waltham Forest LBC (2001) 4 CCL Rep 258 QBD (Admin), where Scott Baker J confirmed that the court has power to make a costs order when the substantive proceedings have been resolved without a trial, but when the parties have not agreed about costs; specifically in relation to compromised cases…he observed that:
at each end of the spectrum there will be cases where it is obvious which side would have won had the substantive issues been fought to a conclusion. In between, the position will, in differing degrees, be less clear. How far the court will be prepared to look into the previously unresolved substantive issues will depend on the circumstances of the particular case, not least the amount of costs at stake and the conduct of the parties.
This principle had previously been applied to COP proceedings by Cobb J in JS v KB & MP  EWCOP 483 at paragraph 13.
Senior Judge Hilder held that the admitted conduct and the failure to disclose, together with the fact that the application was wholly successful justified a departure from Rule 159 of the COP Rules (see paragraph 39). She ordered Matrix to pay the borough’s costs.
Senior Judge Hilder then considered whether those costs (which amounted to £250,000) should be paid on the indemnity basis. At paragraph 42, she held the Matrix’s conduct had been wholly out of the norm justifying an award of costs on the indemnity basis.
Costs orders against parties are unusual in the COP. Where, as here, a paid deputy defaults and then obstructs the court’s process, clearly an order for costs is justified. Defaulting deputies should not believe that they can have a free ride in this respect.