High Court Finds Procedural Irregularity in Cost Budgeting Decision: Daniel Luke Woolley v Ministry of Justice

Citation: [2024] EWHC 304 (KB)
Judgment on


In the case of Daniel Luke Woolley v Ministry of Justice, the High Court of Justice, King’s Bench Division, evaluated an appeal related to costs budgeting in a personal injury action. The appeal scrutinized a decision made by Her Honour Judge Baucher at the Central London County Court that limited the claimant’s costs budget significantly. MR JUSTICE KERR considered the application of cost management rules and procedural fairness, closely aided by Judge Brown, an assessor appointed under Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 1998.

Key Facts

Daniel Luke Woolley, the claimant, sought to appeal against a cost budgeting decision imposed by the Central London County Court that restricted his estimated costs to £26,225, which he felt was disproportionate. The case stemmed from an assault that the claimant experienced while on remand in HMP Birmingham in January 2019. Debate arose around the legitimacy of the cost management order (CMO), particularly focusing on the judge’s consideration (or lack thereof) of the defendant’s agreed budget during the costs and case management conference (CCMC). The appeal introduces two critical grounds, mainly the failure to regard the defendant’s budget and the judge’s supposed undermining of the principle of ensuring that ‘the parties are on an equal footing.‘

Key legal principles hinge on the rules of cost management established under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). Specifically, Rule 3.17 of the CPR requires judges to regard available budgets of the parties when making case management decisions. Legal arguments presented were rooted in the assertion that costs management should ensure the parties operate on an equal footing, as embedded within the overriding objectives of the CPR to manage cases justly and at proportionate cost (see rules 3.12(2) and 1.1(2) of the CPR).

The court considered whether cost management decisions intersect with case management decisions under rule 3.17, influencing how proportionality should be assessed when not all budgets are agreed upon. The discourse analyzed the proper consideration of the chargeability of procedural steps and the impact of agreement between parties on budget phases as per rule 3.15(2)(a), demonstrating judicature nuances in interpreting the interplay between various procedural rules.


The High Court concluded that there was a “serious procedural or other irregularity” in the proceedings, as Judge Baucher did not permit the claimant to reference the defendant’s budget when discussing proportionality. MR JUSTICE KERR deemed the defendant’s budget a relevant consideration, which should not have been dismissed. The first ground of the appeal was upheld due to this irregularity, entailing procedural unfairness and deviation from the principle of equality.

On the second ground of the appeal, the claimant’s argument that the judge failed to ensure the parties were on an equal footing was rejected by the High Court. The budgets’ disparity was noticeable, yet no independent merit was found since the decision to uphold the first ground encapsulated concerns regarding equality.

As a remedy, the case was remitted back to the county court for reevaluation of the claimant’s cost budget by a different judge, unless an agreement on the budget could be reached within 14 days of the appellate court’s order.


The Daniel Luke Woolley v Ministry of Justice case underscores the criticality of procedural fairness and adherence to the rules of cost management within civil litigation. The judgment emphasized that while tactical considerations may influence the presentation of budgets, a transparent and reasonable assessment respecting the parties’ equality is paramount. The High Court displayed deference to the totality of the circumstances surrounding alleged procedural irregularities, affirming that decisions must be just, not merely correct in isolation. Judges are bound to consider agreed-upon budgets but must also remain open to submissions that may justify different budget amounts, thereby ensuring a fair opportunity for all litigants in the pursuit of justice.