A Case Of David And Goliath As Howards Solicitors Takes On The MOJ And Wins

The Ministry of Justice, MOJ, is to pay the costs of two sets of assessment proceedings on the indemnity basis after the Governments’ Points of Dispute were rejected by the Court in favour of the Claimants Detailed Bills of Costs.Ministry of Justice

The matters of Mr. Dean Whitehead –v- Ministry of Justice [2017] C51YJ506 and Mr. Sean Berger –v-   Ministry of Justice [2017] C68YJ577 involved two claims for personal injury following  injuries sustained whilst detained at Strangeways Prison, Manchester.

Both Claimants consulted Howards Solicitors who sought to obtain compensation following thenegligence of the Prison authorities. Ironically, all claims must be commenced through the Ministry’s own online claims portal yet the Ministry of Justice does not make itself available within said portal. Hence, Letters of Claim were prepared for both Claimants and served accordingly by post.

The Government in the meantime refused to deal with the claims citing the fact that the claims were fraudulent and the matter had been referred to Greater Manchester Police for investigation. After some considerable delay during which time no evidence of any referral to the police ever came to light, we were forced to issue proceedings through the court to advance the matters for our clients because the Government were simply failing to address the claims.

Thereafter, the claims had been allocated to the Fast Track and a trial date set and then the government relented and agreed to settle both claims in full.

On settlement, the Government refused to pay the legal costs of the proceedings on the basis that Court proceedings were unnecessary/prematurely issued. Gavyn Atkinson, specialist personal injury claims handler, who had conduct of the matters then commenced Costs Proceedings against the Government who again opposed the proceedings and the legitimacy of them.

On 13 October 2017 the matters were heard together by District Judge Manasse siting the Manchester County Court, it was submitted on behalf of the Claimants that the Government was a) operating a ‘double standard’ by failing to make themselves available within their own portal but ordering all other compensators to take part in the scheme, b) the claims were never referred to Greater Manchester Police and the allegation that they were was nothing more than a ruse to try to force the Claimants into withdrawing, what were clearly genuine claims.

The Court found in favour of the Claimants and, as the Claimants had matched their Part 36 Offers for Costs ‘to the penny’, it fell for the costs of the assessment proceedings to be assessed on the indemnity basis pursuant to Lowin vPortsmouth and Co Ltd [2016] EWHC 2301 (QB).

Mr Atkinson said “ Clearly there is an element of ‘David and goliath’ here, the Government adopted very questionable tactics to derail two genuine Claimants and has now to pay the price for its questionable behaviour”. In respect of the legalities, Mr Atkinson said “It also stands as a reminder to Solicitors to make well calculated Part 36 offers early doors, not just in the substantive matter but in Costs proceedings too”.