Short change 650

A judge checking the court hasn't been short-changed again.

The High Court has ruled that a claim could not proceed due to the claimants' solicitors underpaying the court fee by £24.

In the case of Peterson & Anor v Howard De Walden Estates Ltd, the claimants had four months to make an application in their dispute, as tenants, against a landlord. 

On 25 March 2022, two days before the deadline, the claimants' solicitors, Wiseman Lee (since acquired by Axiom DWFM) went to the Central London County Court, but found the counter had been moved due to renovation works. 

Court staff told the firm's representative that payments could not be made yet at the new location, but if papers were lodged in the post box they would be treated as having been received that day.

The solicitors issued the claim form with a covering letter to give authority to deduct a fee of £308, which was previously the correct amount. However, the sum had been increased to £332 in September 2021.

The court returned the claim form to the solicitors with a letter saying the matter could not be processed with the old fee, and that the deadline was missed. Wiseman Lee asked the court for relief to rectify the matter, due to an error of procedure.

Recorder Hansen told the lawyers that the court was "quite entitled" to do as it did, "given the failure" of the solicitors to "tender the correct fee".

He said that the commencement of proceedings is marked by the issue of the claim form "and it is only then that the court’s case management powers" are engaged.

However, Hansen opined that the law for this issue was "ripe for review" querying if the current legal position was "entirely satisfactory" given that the mistake in this case was "inadvertent and understandable".

The solicitors appealed on the basis that Hansen had failed to characterise the fee mistake as an error of procedure.

Mr Justice Eyre in the High Court rejected the appeal stating that the four-month period for tenants to bring claims was government legislation, and it was not for the courts to say the result of this was unsatisfactory.

The error "was a failure to take a step which the lord chancellor had required to be taken before the court staff would issue a claim form," said the judge.

The judge also said that the correct court fee was a matter of public record. “One can well understand how the error arose but the position remains that the error was made because the claimants’ solicitors were working on the basis of a fee scale which had been superseded some six months previously.”

The High Court judge threw out the claim. 

LU iconLet top firms and companies ping your app when they like you for a role. Keep an ear to the ground with LawyerUp, available on the App Store or Google Play.


Tip Off ROF


Rolling backlog? 12 May 23 10:29

This sounds like a procedural mistake - for which relief should have been granted.

The claimant had a fee account - surely, the sensible thing to do was to deduct the £308 and then require claimant to authorise further deduction of £24 to be given at the first hearing, failing which the claim then be dismissed. 

But instead of this, the claim is thrown out and an appeal is invited. It's not exactly saving money or court time in the long run.

Seems a very inflexible decision made.  

Anonymous Anonymous 12 May 23 11:01

Law firms charge large fees for their expert advice and knowledge and win cases because of minor details or errors. In this case they lost a case. Shame.

Proud Remainer FBPE 12 May 23 11:28

"Our justice system is the envy of the world."


This would never happen in Europe, where sensible normal countries are run by grown-ups. Not like our current mob of charlatans and their chums.

Both the Germans and French are renowned, in fact, for their flexible approaches to procedure, form-filling and bureaucratic process.

So it is unthinkable that such a thing might have happened there.

Anonymous 12 May 23 22:04

@Proud Remainer FBPE 12 May 23 11:28

Statism is common in much of Western Europe, so if if you act on behalf of a party that in some way is state related, the government offices will bend over backwards to accommodate you. And some judges will be swayed by "raison d'etat" even if this is not official law. The reason this is not called corruption, is that the "intellectuals" are perfectly fine with this. After all they have always depended on ample public money.

If, on the other hand, you happen to represent to opposite side, underpaying is close to contempt of court.

Anon 13 May 23 09:21

Court is right , sols messed up. They handle loads of these , can’t call or chase mistakes 

Anonymous 16 May 23 14:20

@Anonymous 12 May 23 09:46

The County Court barely has the resources to make sure that hearings run smoothly and the most basic of admin is facilitated. On what planet do you think there are ushers and court staff sat around with nothing better to do than fix a solicitor's mistake? 

And where do you stop? Should the Court staff tell a party their claim is a Part 8 not a Part 7? Or that they need permission to serve out? They can't be giving legal advice to dopey sols. 

Pro Bono 16 May 23 18:11

We sent a claim form to the CCMCC on 15 March. The claim was for £74,686.13, and we sent a cheque for the court fee of £3,734.

Having waited over two months we today received the claim form and cheque back with a covering letter saying that it had been rejected because the correct court fee was £3,734.31. (In fact, they're wrong, as, having checked, the fee is 5% of the claim but rounded down to the nearest penny, i.e. £3,734.30).

Yes, I hold my hand up, it was my mistake that I'd misread it as rounding down to the nearest pound, but FFS! I guess we'll now have to wait another two months for them to issue the damn thing. 

I hate HMCTS with a deep passion

Rolling back log 18 May 23 09:14

To all those saying it’s not the court’s job to point out mistakes. No it isn’t. But it is also the courts role to consider whether relief ought to be granted where there are procedural errors such as this.

Underpaying by £24 or by 30p (another poster) is much less serious a transgression than issuing out of time and yet both are non compliance with procedure yet the latter is often granted relief. Is fairness the victim here? Or are we saying there was clearly an intention to short change the court by 30p in £3k so it deserves to be rejected? 


Gannicus 19 May 23 07:30

You charge clients hundreds an hour to handle the details and can’t even be bothered to check those details (6 months after a change ffs) and some of the entitled gimps on here expect the minimum wage court admin staff to fix your mistakes. Lol @ u.

Related News