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Courts Act 2003

Fees, costs and fines

Award of costs against third parties

216.The Act provides for criminal courts to have power to order third parties to pay costs incurred by parties to a criminal case as a result of the third party’s serious misconduct.

217.Costs in criminal cases are governed by Part II of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (POA 1985). This provides for certain costs in criminal proceedings, in particular the costs of acquitted defendants, to be paid out of ‘central funds’ (that is public money). This, taken with the fact that most prosecutions are brought by the State and most defendants are legally aided, means that the legal costs of criminal proceedings are mostly met by the taxpayer

218.Section 19 of the POA 1985 provides for the Lord Chancellor to make regulations which empower the court to order one party to pay the costs incurred by the other as a result of the first party’s unnecessary or improper act or omission. Section 19A of the Act provides for the court to make wasted costs orders against legal representatives in criminal proceedings. Regulations provide for costs paid out of central funds or by the Criminal Defence Service to be recouped when an order is made under either of these sections.

219.The POA 1985 does not currently allow for the court to order third parties to pay costs. Where costs are wasted or incurred as a result of a third party’s action these would fall to be paid by the parties to the case or, more likely, the taxpayer. In a recent case, a newspaper published an article that caused the abandonment of a trial, leading to wasted costs, mostly payable by the taxpayer, of some £1m.

220.A power for courts to order third parties to pay costs is not novel. A broader power already exists in the civil courts. However, the power introduced by the Act will be limited to instances of serious misconduct by a third party.

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