Lawyers at Doughty Street Chambers have written to the Court to raise serious concerns over the content and status of the guidance. They are now supported by over 200 other practitioners and charities, including all of the major solicitors’ firms which undertake claimant public law work (including Leigh Day, Bindmans and Irwin Mitchell). They argue that the guidance misstates the law; it will be difficult and unfair to apply it in practice; and it will be damaging for successful and partly successful claimants in particular, further undermining access to justice at a time when it is already under strain given legal aid changes.

The Supreme Court has recognized that legal aid practitioners rely upon inter partes costs orders to survive and continue to represent their clients, many of whom are vulnerable and in dire need. This guidance undermines their ability to secure inter partes costs when they have succeeded in securing key relief for their clients.

They also query the status of the guidance, as it conflicts with clear authority from the Court of Appeal and the Civil Procedure Rules. There is also a question regarding whether the guidance is lawful, as it amounts to a Practice Direction without having followed the mandatory procedures for issuing Practice Directions.

The signatories to the letter have called for the guidance to be suspended. They have requested that there be an urgent meeting of the Administrative Court Users’ Group and / or a wider consultation about the issues.  You can read the full letter (with signitories) here.