A v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire [2008] EWHC 1658 (QB)

The Claimant appealed against a decision to assess his costs by reference to the reasonable costs of instructing a suitable local solicitor in Sheffield rather than the higher costs of his London based solicitor. He had issued proceedings in London and the matter was then transferred to Sheffield. The Claimant ceased instructing local solicitors on the basis that they were not specialists in claims against the police. He instructed London solicitors instead. The Judge found that a solicitor with experience of police matters ought to have been able to deal with the claim with assistance from experienced counsel if necessary. The Claimant should have made an effort to look for a specialist firm locally rather than instructing the only firm he had heard of. The Claimant argued that the Judge had failed to appreciate the special nature of the claim, requiring expertise in bringing claims against the police, establishing a psychiatric injury claim and an understanding of the significance of racist action and causation of psychiatric harm.

Held: A reasonable litigant would have enquired about solicitors in Sheffield with experience of handling police misconduct cases. A reasonable litigant would have made himself aware of the comparative charges by consulting firms in Sheffield and London (Wraith v Sheffield Forgemasters Ltd [1998] applied) and would have appreciated the substantial difference in rates. There was no evidence that the Claimant had identified, or that a reasonable litigant would have identified, the particular areas of expertise as something he needed. A reasonable litigant would have thought it unreasonable to instruct the London solicitor due to the substantial added cost. Appeal dismissed.