Judge: Yip J.
Citation:  EWHC 3684 (QB)
Where the order had been wrongly drawn, producing an irrational result, a costs judge could not go behind an order or change its terms.
The appellant and respondents had been involved in three planning appeals which had been withdrawn by the appellant. The respondent applied for costs. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ordered the appellant to pay the respondents’ costs, less any expense commonly incurred in all three appeals. There was some ambiguity in the wording of the order but the deputy master agreed that the order’s intention in relation to common costs was to ensure that they would be paid once rather than three times. On appeal the court held that where the order had been wrongly drawn, producing an irrational result, a costs judge could not go behind an order or change its terms. Judgments were reasons for orders, they were not the orders themselves. The court had to construe the order by looking at its words, and while it could look at what had been intended, the reasoning could not act to rectify the order. The wording of the order had not conveyed what was thought to have been intended and the respondents should have challenged it by way of judicial review. It had been unfair and inappropriate to assess the order on the basis of what it should have said rather than what it did say. The assessment was set aside and a reassessment would be carried out, excluding costs which had been common to all three appeals.