By Ashley Young-
A solicitor was blasted for misleading the court after being forced to revise his witness statement within an hour of alive case.
The court drama occurred after the judge suggested the solicitor was in serious danger of misleading the court in a costs claim.
In Evans v Pinsent Masons LLP, the Honourable Mr Justice Martin Spencer said the original witness statement from the claimant’s solicitors contained ‘very bald inconsistency’ about the details of its application for relief from sanction. The defendant had acted for the claimant, Rafaela Evans, and had rendered cost bills for examination.
The claimant, a former client of international firm Pinsent Masons ,who had sought oral consideration to the of costs bills. This was rejected by the court, who refused permission to appeal. The claimant was subsequently given a 28 May deadline to renew an application for an extension of time after seeking detailed account of the cost bills for the case. The court in that case stated that there were no special circumstances to appeal the case, as is required by law.
The claimant’s solicitors did not, at the same time, serve a copy of the letter of 30 May on the defendant as they were obliged to do.On 30 May, the claimant’s solicitors, London firm Silver Shemmings Ash, had written to the court stating that date itself(May 30) to be the final day to renew the application. The court took their claim at face value and accepted 30 May as the correct date and granted the extension. Pinsent Masons then wrote to the court saying it had been ‘seriously misled’ by the claimant solicitors.
However, the judge later warned the claimant’s solicitors risked a potential finding they had ‘deliberately and falsely’ misled the court by suggesting the application was in time, when they knew it had been made out of time.After the short adjournment, solicitor Henry Hathaway, from Silver Shemmings Ash, filed a new statement in which he accepted the wording of the original witness statement was ‘terrible’ but denied any deliberate attempt to mislead the court.
The judge responded that the position was ‘evidentially extremely unsatisfactory’ even after the further evidence. He concluded there was ‘no adequate explanation’ why the court was, on one view, ‘seriously misled’ by the first witness statement. The alternative and worse view, the judge said, was that Hathaway knew ‘perfectly well’ his application was two days out of time, but he attempted to ‘pull the wool over the court’s eyes’, hoping to induce the court to issue a notice of hearing without querying the matter.
The judge said that had the court previously known the full position it would not have granted relief from sanction. That decision was therefore overturned and the defendant’s application for reconsideration allowed.