Costs draughtsman shenanigans

Further to my post last week about the lawyers accused of legal aid fraud, readers may be interested to hear the outcome of the trial (particularly the anonymous reader who posted a comment asking if I “actually have the facts about the costs draftsman or are you basing your judgement of what Metro reported?”.

The Law Society Gazette reports (hey, I’m going to trust them on this), that “a criminal defence solicitor and a costs draughtsman [sic] have been jailed for a £430,000 legal aid scam. Solicitor Reuben Ewujowoh … was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Costs draughtsman Robert Odong … was sentenced to two-and-a-half years and recommended for deportation, as he is a failed asylum seeker. Legal case worker Lloyd McDonald … was entirely cleared by the Croydon Crown Court jury. … Describing the two convicted defendants as ‘remorseless and ruthless in their behaviour’, Judge John Tanzer said they had pocketed £430,000”.

The costs draftsman was not a Costs Lawyer and therefore not regulated. On the other hand, the solicitor was regulated. This coincides with the recent report on will writing suggesting regulated solicitors and unregulated will writers were equally responsible for substandard wills.

This story just highlights the limitations of regulation. Although it will be interesting to see if the Costs Lawyer Standards Board starts to implement spot checks on Costs Lawyers’ files to check for “irregular” billing.

18 thoughts on “Costs draughtsman shenanigans

  1. These people were simply criminals, and criminals do not suffer regulation

    There is no other relevance in this story to the subject of regulation

    The title of Cost Lawyer does not guarantee the individuals are more able or regulated than any other cost professional; any suggestion they are, confirms their continued dilusion that being promoted to that level automatically without evidence of ability, and sitting through a paid course, makes them somehow better.

  2. An interesting point. However, wouldnt hiring a costs lawyer become a disadvantage for some solicitors i.e. if costs lawyers will not put a little extra ‘VAT’ on their bills it may have a significant impact on any particular solicitors income…

    Conversely i’m actually for regulation, even though i’m a claimant costs draftsman. Lets face it – solicitors are all greedy anyway ………….

  3. Will regulation cure the problem? Although not fraudulent what about the excessive time recording I have seen claimed by large PI Defendant firms who have been awarded their costs of the action and who seek to recover those costs inter partes from the Claimant and then those same firms who argue that Claimant’s costs are excessive…I for one welcome the proposed reforms as they will bring clarity and significantly reduce costs for both Claimants and Defendant and introduce a more level playing field.

  4. I still stand by what I said, you were not in court so your analysis of the case is based on other people’s articles.
    My argument is very simple there was clear evidence of fraud but the case was based on 2 accounts of conspiracy, one of the 3 defendants was found not guilty and if another had been cleared then the case would have collapsed, someone had to go down; there were egos to be stroked for one the arresting officer was going into retirement and it was a well known fact to all attendees that he had to go out on a high with a conviction in his pocket irrespective of whose life is being ruined. Secondly not all verdicts turn out to be true as we have seen in many cases that have been over turned. This lawyer has been fraudulently claiming legal aid for many years so what makes these cases different that he had to conspire with an untrained costs draftsman having to share the proceeds and yet he can have it all.
    This lawyer had the opportunity to redeem himself and speak up after the verdicts were read and clear the costs draftsman of any wrong doing but if you are a hard core crook you die a one. I for one I am happy that these little law firms littered around the country one by one are being closed due to malpractices they have trampled and destroyed so many people’s lives and many of these crooked lawyers ending up in prison where they belong it is just unfortunate that innocent people like the cost draftsman have been caught up the process.

  5. Untrained?

    anyone knows that claiming for what you are not entitled to is wrong. Therefore the costs draughtsman was not innocent

    whatever way you look at it he was in the wrong

  6. From what you have just written there, it still seems you didn’t understand Simon’s original article. It was a joke about relying on the signature to a bill! I don’t know what you are rambling on about!

  7. To suggest that a jury would convict a defendant as a retirement present for the investigating police officer is beyond Monty Python.

    As the costs draftsman was a failed asylum seeker he was obviously susceptable to pressure.However, he prepared the claims and the jury decided he knew what he was doing.

    To suggest there has been a miscarriage of justice is par for the course these days; nobody is guilty of anything anymore.

  8. “anyone knows that claiming for what you are not entitled to is wrong. Therefore the costs draughtsman was not innocent”

    Then why do we see various items claimed on bills, which the receiving party is not entitled to claim from the paying party?

    Interesting moral question, how may of us when preparing bills think, as we come across a file note, you’re claiming x hours for preparing this, you must be joking; however it still goes in the bill.

  9. “Interesting moral question, how may of us when preparing bills think, as we come across a file note, you’re claiming x hours for preparing this, you must be joking; however it still goes in the bill.”

    If we dont all ask this question, then we shouldnt be in the job in the first place!

    Nevertheless, we are not policing costs, but reflecting them. It should not be a draftsmans job to predetermine what an opponent is going to object to.

    After all, if we did, Simon would be out of a job………… ;)

  10. “Then why do we see various items claimed on bills, which the receiving party is not entitled to claim from the paying party?”

    Just because there is a divergence of opinion as to whether something is recoverable between the parties or as to whether the time claimed is reasonable is not the same as what the article was concerned with. The articles suggested that impossible amounts of time had been claimed and that there parties conspired to alter file notes

    a debate as to reasonable time / whether an item is chargeable inter partes is a world away im afraid

  11. I was trained on the premise:

    ”the solicitors word is final and god.”

    In other words, costs draftsman have to adhere to whatever ther instructing solicitor requests.

    However, i’m curious as to how far this is reflected in the solicitor / barrister relationship ?

    If the barrister doesnt think an argument is worth running, or is just plain unreasonable he is under an obligation to tell the solicitor – is’nt this the sort of professional integrity costs lawyers will be bringing to the profession ?

  12. re annon
    Not really concerned with a matter of opinion as we are all paid to argue black is white; however, I regularly see items claimed on bills that should not be claimed. I’m looking at a bill at present where two hearings and a Court fee have been claimed, when the Order for the two hearings state ‘no order for costs’. Now this is not a matter of opinion but a claim contrary to CPR.

    re Chris

    Whilst he who pays the piper may apply, we (as a profession) should always strongly advise them when they are wrong and we should only prepare bills in line with regulations, no matter what a Solicitor may want.

  13. Costs lawyers have a duty to the court just like solicitors and barristers do. That Buxton/Mills case dealt with this type of issue in its general context.

  14. I cannot locate what Andy Ellis refers to as “that Buxton/Mills case” and wonder whether anyone could post a link or at least give its full citation.

  15. Thanks Simon.
    Paragraphs 43 to 45 of the judgment are, it seems to me, the most relevant.

  16. I have today received a Bill

    At first blush it seems like 3 summarilly assessed app’s claimed within the Bill. The Bill is from a top ten firm, with a not that large insurance practice, with offices in just about every jurisdiction going.

    It would seem that mistakes are made in both Defendant and Claimant worlds and it is not only claimant’s who make this mistake!

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