Coventry v Lawrence (No. 3)

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Coventry v Lawrence
Middlesex.guildhall.london.arp.jpg
CourtSupreme Court of the United Kingdom
Full case nameCoventry and others (Respondents) v Lawrence and another (Appellants)
Argued9-10 & 12 February 2015
Decided22 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] UKSC 50
Case history
Prior action(s)[2012] EWCA Civ 26
Holding
The Access to Justice Act 1999 scheme is compatible with Article 6, ECHR.
Case opinions
MajorityLords Neuberger, Mance, Dyson, Sumption and Carnwath
DissentLady Hale and Lord Clarke
Area of Law
Costs in English law; Right to a fair trial

Coventry v Lawrence (No. 3) was a 2015 judgment of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom concerning the compatibility of the Access to Justice Act 1999 with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Facts[edit]

The case is a follow up to Coventry v Lawrence and Coventry v Lawrence (No. 2) and originally began as a claim in nuisance against the operators of a local speedway stadium by two local residents.[1]

The residents' lawyers acted under a conditional fee agreement also more commonly known as 'no win no fee'.[2] They eventually won the case and the stadium owner was ordered to pay 60% of the other sides costs.[3] This included not only their base costs but also a success fee and an After-the-Event (ATE) insurance premium.[4] In this case the stadium owner did not challenge his liability to pay the base costs but argued that his liability for both the success fee and ATE premium would infringe his article 6 (right to a fair trial) and/or article 1 of the first protocol (right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions) rights.[4]

Judgment[edit]

Supreme Court[edit]

In Callery v Gray [2002] UKHL 28 Lord Bingham noted that the Access to Justice Act 1999 has three principal aims:[5]

  1. To contain the rising cost of legal aid.
  2. To improve access to the courts for claimant with meritorious claims.
  3. To discourage weak claims.

In spite of this the European Court of Human Rights held in MGN Ltd v UK (2011) 53 EHRR 5 that the scheme had a number of flaws that made it incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[6]

Lord Neuberger gave the leading judgment of the court and held that the present case is not about the flaws of the Access to Justice Act 1999 but rather whether it is a proportionate way of achieving the aims set out by Lord Bingham. With this in mind Neuberger held that:[7]

It was noted that there is no scheme that will perfectly provide access to justice in the wake of the withdrawal of legal aid from most civil cases yet the European Court of Human Rights acknowledges that any such scheme may still be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights even where it operates harshly in certain individual cases.[8] Overall the Access to Justice Act 1999 provides a "rational and coherent scheme for providing access to justice" that is compatible with the Convention.[9]

Speedway riders.
The case began because of the noise caused by a local speedway stadium.

Dissenting judgment[edit]

Lord Clarke (with whom Lady Hale agreed) gave a dissenting judgment that suggested the Access to Justice Act 1999 was not compatible with the Convention because it discriminated between defendants and imposed heavy liabilities on some but not others.[10]

Reaction[edit]

Reacting to the judgment David Greene said:[11]

Others have considered the potential impact if the minority judgment had been successful:[10]

It has also been suggested that the case may be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13
  2. ^ Hayes, Lucy (16 March 2015). "Case preview: Coventry & Ors v Lawrence & Anor UKSC 2012/76". UKSC blog. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Coventry v Lawrence: Supreme Court Rules for the Status Quo". Horwich Farrelly Solicitors. 22 July 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b Underwood, Kerry (23 January 2015). "Coventry: a costs calamity in waiting?". New Law Journal. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  5. ^ Callery v Gray [2002] UKHL 28, [2]
  6. ^ MGN Ltd v UK (2011) 53 EHRR 5
  7. ^ Coventry v Lawrence (No 3) [2015] UKSC 50
  8. ^ Coventry v Lawrence (No 3) [2015] UKSC 50, [62]
  9. ^ Coventry v Lawrence (No 3) [2015] UKSC 50, [83]
  10. ^ a b "COVENTRY V LAWRENCE, OR LESSONS FROM A NEAR MISS: A PRACTICAL VIEW FROM THE BAR". Littleton. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  11. ^ Greene, David (30 July 2015). "To Coventry & back—a damp squib?". New Law Journal. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  12. ^ "How insurers' position is affected by yesterday's news on Coventry v Lawrence and even higher court fees". DWF Insurance. 23 July 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.

External links[edit]