Court of Appeal confirms that no order for costs was the right result when judicial review became moot after a successful internal appeal

07 Mar 2014

In a judgment released earlier today (Speciality Produce Limited v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2014] EWCA Civ 225), the Court of Appeal dealt with a case where the claimant, SPL, had sought judicial review of an initial decision by the Rural Payments Agency derecognising it as a producers organisation under the relevant EU Regulation.  That initial decision could be challenged by a statutory internal appeal to the Secretary of State.  SPL challenged the merits of the decision on the internal appeal but also sought – and obtained permission to bring – judicial review of the initial decision on the basis of a legitimate expectations/abuse of process argument.  In the event, the internal appeal was resolved in SPL’s favour shortly before the hearing of the judicial review.  There was no provision for costs in the internal appeal procedure.  SPL claimed that since the decision had been withdrawn and it had got the relief it sought, the Secretary of State should pay its costs in the judicial review proceedings.  The Court of Appeal – upholding an earlier judgment by Vos J – disagreed.  It noted that the issues in the judicial review and in the internal appeal were very different and that no inference could be drawn from the result of the internal appeal that the Secretary of State was likely to have lost the judicial review.  SPL could have asked to stay the judicial review until the internal appeal had been concluded, and it was not relevant that it had good commercial reasons for not taking that course or that an earlier internal appeal had taken a very long time.  The right order was no order for costs.

George Peretz acted for the Secretary of State in the High Court and Court of Appeal

Click here to read the full speciality produce v SoS for Environment, Food & Rural affairs judgment