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local authority required to pay costs of exonerated grandparents

28 January 2011

The Court of Appeal has recently ordered that Kingston upon Hull City Council who had acted properly and could not be criticised for any procedural step taken in care proceedings, pay the costs of the grandparents who joined the proceedings to be exonerated of all allegations of sexual abuse. The costs could be in excess of £50,000.

At first instance the family court Judge concluded that since it had been reasonable for the local authority to pursue the allegations against the grandparents, the door to a successful application for costs on their part was not open. On the particular facts of this case their Lordships disagreed, potentially landing the council with the legal bill (which has yet to be assessed).

The fact finding enquiry lasted 5 ½ weeks. One of the reasons that the grandparents costs were so high was that their solicitor was in court throughout this period. In future we recommend that local authorities make it absolutely clear when they believe unnecessary costs are being run up in open correspondence and ask the Judge hearing the care proceeding to make rulings on what representation is reasonable.

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