Thursday 25 November 2010

Response to FoIA internal review request for costs of Paul Chambers prosecution

This post is an archive. The live version can be found on a new blog called Arsehole Justice (no offence).

Today I received a response to my request for internal review of the answer to my FoIA request about the costs of the Paul Chambers prosecution. Here it is:


I refer to Freedom of Information request 2484, the CPS response and your subsequent request for an Internal Review dated 20 October 2010.

Your original request was regarding the costs of the prosecution against Paul Chambers.
Our response to you advised that the case was ongoing and next court of hearing on 11 November.
You were unhappy about the response received and requested an internal review.

At the time of your initial request the information that you requested was not held. I have decided to uphold Ms Kadir’s decision.

However, I can now confirm that the total cost applied for by the prosecution was £2,600. This comprised:

£600 Magistrates Costs (Previously awarded following his conviction)
£620 Crown Court Costs
£720 Counsel’s Preparation Time (9 hours agreed)
£330 Counsel’s Fee Day 1 of the Appeal Hearing
£330 Counsel’s Fee Day 2 of the Appeal Hearing

The CPS does not capture the costs of its staff in the management of case files.

If you are not content with the outcome of this internal review, you have the right to complain directly to the Information Commissioner, who can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
Now. I think this is ludicrous if true, but I'm told by a third party that it may well be. Unlike private sector solicitors, the CPS don't bill time against matters. They should. It doesn't seem like a very good way to account for public money. We already knew about the £2600 claim for costs as this was disclosed during the appeal on sentencing. Next stop is the Information Commissioner I guess, but I'm not expecting much from that quarter.


  1. Hi Matt

    It's not too surprising that the CPS don't record time. Other solicitors do because they can bill on it. That key motive is gone in the CPS. It also costs money to record time and process the data. So the CPS are in the position of not seeing a return for something that's going to cost.

    In fact solicitors, in general, do not record costs (they call it "costs", but when a solicitor says "cost" it's shorthand for "how much it's going to cost you") but time.

    You can, of course, relate the costs of employing the solicitor to the time it buys but there is no canonical way of doing that. There isn't the one-to-one relationship between hours and cost that would steer you to any fixed result. As a half-decent accountant I could come up with 10 costs for the same person's time without breaking sweat.

    The key thing for the point you're making is the 9 hours (WTF 9 HOURS of CPS time on THAT). Why not ask them if 9 hours is a reasonable estimate of the actual time spent and, if not, what their best guess at a reasonable figure is?

  2. Look on the bright side. Do your own esimate and publish it as such. They cant say its wrong.


  3. I am given to believe that there are formulas to estimate the costs on a particular matter when that is required. Perhaps it is the result of this that I ought to be asking for.

  4. I think Tony Lloyd is right. The CPS doesn't employ solicitors, they do the work themselves, so they don't incur direct legal costs. You might then say that they should apportion part of one or more employees' salaries to the case, for the amount of time they spent on it. But I think even this would be misleading. If Paul Chambers hadn't been prosecuted, it's not as though the CPS salary costs would have been lower, or the taxpayer would have saved money.

    I'm not sure what Tony is getting at when he says "WTF 9 HOURS of CPS time on THAT". The 9 hours relates to Counsel's (ie the barrister's) preparation time, so their barrister was charging £80 per hour for preparation for the court case, total £720, and earned £330 per day for the hearing.

    I think it's important not to fall into the trap of thinking that because a bad decision was made in this case to prosecute, that that means everything the CPS does, including its FOI responses, is suspicious or devious. The response seems pretty unexceptional to me.

  5. Hang on a minute.

    There are two fees for counsel of the same amount, looks like it's standard. Now, is that a standard fee that is paid to counsel? In this case, you have the cost of it. If it's a standard charge to unsuccessful appellants then the question arises as to whether the payment is standard and, if so, how much it is. (Even if not standard, they have the invoice).

    That gets us a cost for the last two bits.

    Take the counsel's preparation time as is (£720).

    We can discount the court costs, they're court costs and not CPS costs.

    What they haven't done is estimate the time or their costs of:

    1. The original case
    2. The internal costs of supporting the solicitor

    But, if we can get the answers to the cost of versus the charge for the other bits then WE can estimate it. I reckon you can get a supportable number on this yet!

  6. It's not that everything the CPS have done is this case is suspect or devious. It's just that the public have a right to know how much it is costing in real terms. Is it worth it? The fact that most seem to agree it should never have been prosecuted to start with (and that we know the CPS wouldn't have pursued it had they known it was not strict liability) suggests they ought to have the costs in mind. I asked them back in March to drop the prosecution and they could have done, especially since they were not optimistic at that time of a guilty verdict.


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