The following is a press release issued by Public Interest Lawyers:
In a judgment handed down today the Supreme Court set aside the finding of the Court of Appeal on costs and ordered North Somerset Council to pay Aaron Hunt two thirds of his costs before the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The appeal to the Supreme Court was brought following the Court of Appeal’s finding that although the Council had acted unlawfully in relation to a decision taken in February 2012 to reduce funding to youth services in the North Somerset area by 72% over a three year period Mr Hunt was not entitled to relief on the basis it was too late to revisit the Council’s budget for that financial year. Mr Hunt, a keen user of these services, had challenged the Council’s decision on the basis, among others, that the decision making process was illegal as it had failed to comply with its statutory obligation to consult with young people.
The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, found that the Court of Appeal had fallen into error and was wrong to find against Mr Hunt on costs as he had won the argument on the substantive issues in dispute. The Supreme Court’s decision on costs is an accurate reflection of the fact that the concerns raised by Mr Hunt about the Council’s decision making process were validated in the Court of Appeal.
A spokesperson for Public Interest Lawyers said –
While the Court of Appeal found that Aaron was right to challenge the Council’s unlawful decision making process, it failed to properly reflect that finding in its decision on costs. Today’s Supreme Court judgment on costs vindicates Aaron’s challenge to the Council’s February 2012 decision. As Lord Toulson noted in the Court’s judgment, public law is not about private rights but about public wrongs. Where a claimant successfully challenges a public wrong committed by a local authority, that claimant should expect to recover their costs. The Supreme Court has given the final decision in this case, with the result that Aaron has succeeded in his challenge and has had the bulk of his costs awarded to him. It is hoped that in the future the Council will give appropriate consideration to the criticisms made of it by the Court of Appeal and ensure that any future decisions taken, whether in relation to youth services or any other important public service, will respect the views of those within the North Somerset area as well as the law.
Padraig Hughes, Public Interest Lawyers
Judgment here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2014-0023.html