Dr S’s solicitors lodged a claim for determination of costs in January 1997, but the full costs were not paid until April 1999, some 27 months later. The Court Service had already offered a total of £155 (for botheration and the costs of chasing progress) in recognition of their shortcomings.
The Ombudsman found that, although most of the delay at taxation has been legitimately taken up by the statutory processes to determine the level of costs payable, there had been unnecessary delays at two stages, which denied Dr S the interest he would otherwise have earned on his monies. The Building Inspection Report Chief Executive said that although he was unable to concede the principle that interest should be paid in such circumstances, in the wholly exceptional circumstances of Dr S case, the Chief Executive was prepared to offer him an overall ex gratia payment of £233 in consideration of his time and trouble.
Service’s position on lost interest, but regarded the payment offered, which equated to the sum he had considered appropriate, as acceptable redress. As pursuit of the matters of principle could take place outside the context of the case, and would not affect the outcome for Dr S, the Ombudsman closed the investigation on that basis. A thread running through this year’s investigated cases has been a number of representations from complainants that their.
Opponents in legal proceedings should not have been legally aided, and that the Legal Services Commission (or the body preceding the Commission, the Legal Aid Board) had taken insufficient account of those representations. Such complaints present some difficulties for the Ombudsman. Section 20 of the Access to Justice Act 1999, like its predecessor section 38 of the Legal Aid Act 1988, does not allow information which has been provided to the Commission in connection with an applicant’s or assisted person’s case to be disclosed to a third party, including the opponent in legal proceedings.