A litigant in person has been order to pay almost £100,000 in interim costs after another reminder from the court that unrepresented people cannot expect special treatment.
His Honour Judge Paul Matthews ruled in Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation v Hardy that the losing defendant should pay 60% of the claimant costs upfront, with the remainder going for detailed assessment.
The judge noted when considering costs that the defendant had reminded him more than once that he was a litigant in person and not a qualified lawyer, but this did ‘not excuse him’.
Citing Lord Briggs in Barton, where the court declined to give a litigant in person special treatment, the judge added: ‘There are not two sets of rules for litigation in this jurisdiction, one for represented litigants and one for unrepresented.’
In the claim, defendant Mark Hardy had faced a claim from the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation, an incorporated firm also registered as a charity, where he had been finance director, after he made allegations including fraud and false accounting. The court ruled that Hardy’s request for copies or inspection of documents under section 116 of the Companies Act was invalid, and not made for a proper purpose. The claimant sought to recover its costs, estimated at around £163,000 on the indemnity basis.
The judge said Hardy’s conduct of the case was ‘well out of the norm’ in the way he approached correspondence, the language and tone he employed, attempts to put in large amounts of irrelevant material and the way he made unsupported accusations against the claimant and its directors.
Hardy had ‘vigorously’ insisted in correspondence that the remote trial of the claim should be live streamed on YouTube because hundreds of people were interested in watching. This request was dropped before the trial without argument, and in the event no more than 14 members of the public watched the remote proceedings. In total, Hardy’s correspondence with the claimant and its solicitors filled two lever arch files of the trial bundle, and in December 2020 alone he sent 46 emails of letters to the claimant. The judge said that Hardy’s correspondence showed him as ‘difficult to deal with, condescending and indeed offensive’.
The judge requested detailed assessment of costs after stating that the total claimed, including £111,088 for the solicitors, was ‘somewhat larger than I would have expected’.