Page 21 - PIC Magazine Issue 21
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   Today’s Process
Whilst this remains much the same as above, my second top tip here is to be mindful
of the 14-day period to submit your appeal.
Increasingly, we are finding
that the Court is not willing to accept appeals that are lodged outside of the 14-day period. Further, there needs to be good reason provided to the Costs Officer to request an extension of time. We are finding that Costs Officers are rejecting requests for extensions for the time limit for appeal.
Early contact with your costs draftsman is also advisable. If you provide them with details of the date detailed on the notice of provisional assessment, along with when you actually received the assessment, this will assist
in determining the deadline by which the appeal needs to be filed with the court.
Bear in mind that you will need to instruct your draftsman on the areas of the assessment
to be appealed and give them sufficient time to draft an appropriate letter of appeal.
You will then also need to review said letter to ensure you are happy with everything and then provide further instructions as to the filing of the letter.
Again, back in the day, we would simply send a hard copy of the letter to the SCCO, along with the originally assessed bill and any further documents. Sometimes, the court would request return of the full files,
if a particularly complex appeal was being undertaken.
Nowadays, everything needs to be filed via the court’s E-filing system. There is an option to file an informal letter of appeal (further demonstrating the emergence of the informal appeal process in practice) and to file additional documents and the originally assessed bill.
The original assessing officer will then reconsider any reductions made in conjunction with the points raised in the letter and
supporting documents. If you are successful, revisions will be detailed within the originally assessed bill. Sometimes, a covering letter will accompany the appeal; again this usually depends upon the complexity of the appeal and/or the extent to which you have been successful.
We must remember that the situation remains that the Court of Protection Section down at the SCCO remains incredibly busy. It is therefore important to abide by these time limits imposed and ensure appeals are submitted without delay. Further, it is worthwhile bearing in mind that, given there is no formal appeal route, the Court is entertaining these formal appeals and they are there to help us.
During the recent Deputy Day, hosted by Frenkel Topping
in Manchester back in May (which comes very highly recommended by the way!), Costs Judge James provided a very informative, as well as entertaining talk in relation
to these issues. She cited an example whereby a solicitor seeking to challenge the outcome of the assessment took the opportunity to “vent” their frustrations at the system, rather than sticking to the facts of the case.
Remember to stick to the facts of the case and present your arguments in a concise and professional manner. The Costs Officers are there to assist us.
Costs of the appeal
Essentially, the further work undertaken is in communicating with the court and the Costs Officers, rather than an opposing or paying party. Who should pay for the costs of making an appeal?
It is unlikely the court would entertain making
a payment of costs for an appeal, that is not an avenue to be ventured down (save for perhaps in the most extreme of cases!).
CPR47.20 technically enables us to seek the costs of the appeal from P’s estate. However, is this fair? It is not P who has opposed the costs. However,
at A & M Bacon we will always provide you with full details of the estimated costs for preparing an appeal, which will be dependent upon the number and complexity of items being challenged. We will also agree with you how we will best proceed with any payment of costs associated with the appeal, be that from P’s funds or otherwise.
The Court does have authority to order payment of reasonable costs of the informal appeal to be paid from P’s estate.
Should I appeal?
It can be tricky to know whether or not to appeal an assessment. Here at A & M Bacon, we have the benefit of seeing over 1,200 assessments returned each year and as a result, we have a pretty good steer on what the Court does and does not like when it comes to recovering costs.
Look out for genuine errors made by the
Costs Officers. We are all human and there
are occasions where simple errors are made. These can be easily resolved with a quick letter of appeal.
Some issues can be more complicated, and we can advise as to whether you might have an argument or whether it is unlikely a challenge will be successful. Input from the practitioner is often useful as this provides insights into
the thought process undertaken at the time. Reference to this and, more essentially perhaps, how a particular course of action serves in P’s best interests, can go a long way to convincing the Costs Officer to depart from their initial decision.
I do hope the information provided here will be of assistance to practitioners. As with many costs matters, these issues are not always so clear cut. I am always happy to discuss any queries that arise from practitioners during the course of your day-to-day work, and this is no different. Should you be unsure as to whether to seek an informal appeal of the assessment, do not hesitate to contact us
for some ad hoc advice. Autumn & Winter 2023

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