Millie Polimac was recently instructed by London Borough of Redbridge in a substantive judicial review concerning the claimant and her six daughters, who were accommodated in one room in a hostel, awaiting the availability of alternative, larger, accommodation. Permission was given to bring a judicial review challenging: (1) the adequacy of the assessment carried out under s.189A of the Housing Act 1996, which was brought in by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and (2) the suitability of the accommodation that the claimant was in.
The claim settled about a week before the hearing, the Claimant having been offered alternative accommodation. Once the accommodation was offered the Claimant proposed settlement as the second ground became academic, notwithstanding the fact that, as the claimant accepted, the challenge to the adequacy of the original plan was not academic.
The parties could not agree a costs order and so written representations were made pursuant to the Administrative Court Guide. In summary, the Claimant argued that she had been the successful party and should therefore be awarded her costs under the principles in M v Croydon  EWCA CIV 595. The Defendant argued, amongst other things, that there was no causal link between the offer of accommodation and the claim because Redbridge had maintained from the start that they would move her to alternative accommodation.
Mr Steven Kovats QC, sitting as Deputy High Court Judge, made no order as to costs, having accepted Millie’s submission that the court could not be satisfied that there was a causal link between the offer of accommodation and the judicial review.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Mr Kovats QC and dismissed the appeal. The Court:
- accepted that the causal link was relevant to determining who had been the successful party (paragraph 47 of Parveen).
- Stated that success may mean obtaining relief earlier than would otherwise have been the case, applying the recent case of recent case of RL v Croydon London Borough Council  EWCA Civ 726 (paragraph 37 of Parveen v Redbridge).
- Found that a court’s investigation into who has been the successful party must be done within reasonable and proportionate bounds (paragraph 38 of Parveen v Redbridge). The determination of costs in such cases is a summary exercise (paragraph 48 of Parveen v Redbridge).
In the present case the judge was entitled to find as he did. It was not clear, even after the detailed submissions and argument in the Court of Appeal, that the offer of accommodation was made as a result of the judicial review (paragraph 51 of Parveen). Furthermore, it was not possible to conclude who would have been the successful party if the claim had been heard. There were arguments to be made on both sides as to the merits of the of the claim (paragraph 52 of Parveen).
This decision is useful in highlighting the various factors that the High Court may consider when making a costs order in an administrative or public law claim that settles.
Millie Polimac acted for the successful Respondent, instructed by London Borough of Redbridge
The judgment can be accessed here