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(Supreme Court, Lady Hale, Lord Phillips, Lord Mance, Lord Dyson, Lord Carnwath, 26 July 2012)
A fact-finding hearing exonerated the father, grandparents and several other men of sexual abuse. The grandparents did not qualify for legal aid, incurred costs of £52,000 and so sought to recover their costs from the local authority.
The judge dismissed the application on the basis that the usual rule was no order for costs unless reprehensible conduct could be proved. In the Court of Appeal the appeal was allowed and it was held that the decision in Re J (Costs of Fact-Finding Hearing)  EWCA Civ 1350,  1 FLR 1893 was favourable to the grandparents.
Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was granted and Cafcass and the Grandparents' Association intervened. The appeal was allowed on the basis that it would not interfere with the grandparents' entitlement to claim their costs. Justice did not demand that any deficiency in the provision of legal aid funding should be made up out of local authority funds. It was legitimate to have regard to the competing demands on the limited funds of local authorities. The general practice of not awarding costs in the absence of reprehensible conduct or an unreasonable stance accorded with the ends of justice.
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