Chief Master Says No To Commenting That Incurred Costs Are High Or Exceptional
In spite of pressure from the BBC to make comment that the costs incurred in the case of the Cliff Richards case were high or exceptional, the chief master of the Chancery has said he will not be pushed into commenting in spite of costs totalling around £1.2m.
The BBC intended for the comment to be along the lines of : “The incurred costs based on information available appear to be excessive and disproportionate.”
However, Master Marsh concluded: “To my mind there is little or no value in the court recording a general comment about incurred costs along the lines that the incurred costs are ‘substantial’ or they are ‘too high’.”
Iconic singer Mr Richards brought a case against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police following coverage of a police raid on his home over allegations of historic child sex offences going back to the 1980s. South Yorkshire Police has since settled in May of this year after Richards demanded “substantial damages” over the police disclosing his private information to the BBC.
As well as making known his reservations about commenting as part of the budgeting process, he took it one step further and removed the cap on the costs of drafting a budget noting that costs management tends to be a swift summary exercise where figures are approved “at an impressionistic level” and in this case costs can vary according to the number of variables determined as the case progresses and with the limited information available.
He also batted away the idea that by not commenting the costs judge may proceed on the basis that the costs were in fact reasonable and proportionate saying that cost judges had deep enough experience in dealing with a wide variety of circumstances and were well placed to draw their own conclusions about what they believed was fair and proportionate.
Marsh continued to say that a comment can only be made on information with a “sound footing” and on information that is specific and “well rounded” more appropriately at detailed assessment stage, and believed that to bow to the wishes of the BBC would simply be anecdotal and therefore of no benefit.
In other words, the court will not comment on anything that is remotely ambiguous but in the context of the law should that approach really be of any surprise to anyone?