T (Children) [2012] UKSC 36

Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Proceedings related to two children and included allegations of sexual abuse against, inter alia, the paternal grandparents (‘G’). Following a lengthy finding of fact hearing, G were exonerated. G were not entitled to public funding and had borrowed more than £50,000 defend the allegations. There was no criticism of the authority for raising the allegations and the judge dismissed their application for costs on the grounds that absent unreasonable conduct, it was not usual to make an order for costs in care proceedings. The Court of appeal reversed that decision on the basis that the judge had erred in his application of In re J. Permission was given to appeal to the Supreme Court on terms that G’s entitlement to costs against the authority would not be disturbed whatever the outcome. The Supreme Court found that the general practice of not awarding costs against a party in care proceedings in the absence of reprehensible behaviour or an unreasonable stance accorded with the ends of justice and should not be subject to any exception in the case of split hearings. A local authority in care proceedings was not in the same position as a civil litigant who raised issues subsequently determined against him. The Children Act 1989 imposed duties on the local authority to institute care proceedings in certain circumstances and justice did not demand that the authority be responsible for the costs of the person against whom allegations were made. Furthermore, it was legitimate when considering whether to make an order for costs against a local authority to have regard to the competing demands on that authority’s budget. The judge’s order had been correct and should not have been reversed by the Court of Appeal.


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