Top judges slash Littlehampton couple’s huge legal costs

Robert Boyce is relieved by the High Court ruling
Robert Boyce is relieved by the High Court ruling

A HUSBAND and wife slapped with a £30,000 legal costs order after their conviction for unlicensed building works in Littlehampton Harbour have had the bill slashed by top judges.

Littlehampton Yacht Club owners, Robert and Fiona Boyce, allowed the construction of a concrete wall along the harbour’s west bank without gaining the proper consent in 2012.

Mr Boyce, 49, was fined £2,000 and his wife was handed a one-year conditional discharge after they were found guilty of causing or permitting coastal works without a marine licence.

The couple, of Rope Walk, Littlehampton, were also each ordered to each pay £15,000 towards the prosecution’s costs, which totalled £36,000, at Horsham Magistrates’ Court in December, 2013.

On Tuesday, two senior judges at London’s High Court upheld a challenge by the couple against that costs order, saying it contained an ‘error of law’ and cutting it by almost two-thirds, to £10,800.

Mr Justice Globe said that between September, 2011, and March, 2012, the pair allowed works which went beyond those they had gained consent to develop.

Appealing against the decision at the High Court on Tuesday, counsel for Mr and Mrs Boyce, argued the £30,000 costs were ‘grossly disproportionate’.

Justice Globe, sitting with Lord Justice Aikens, said: “The penalties that were imposed and the comparatively limited resources of the appellants persuade me that the costs orders are so outside the normal discretionary limits that there must have been an error of law of some description.

“In such circumstances, in my judgement, it is appropriate that permission be granted to proceed with an application for judicial review and I would also grant it.”

Lord Justice Aikens agreed, concluding: “The result is that the order for costs will be quashed and this court will substitute an order that each appellant shall pay costs of £5,400.”

Speaking to the Gazette after the case, Mr Boyce said he was thrilled by the result.

“Relieved? I think that’s the understatement of all understatements,” he said. “We are very pleased that the judges have heard our case.”

He said he was ‘disappointed’ that they had been found guilty of the offence in the first place but that he accepted the decision.

“This whole court process has been a complete waste of public money,” Mr Boyce added.