Legal Update
Inquest Costs: Separately Recoverable under the Fixed Recoverable Costs Regime
1 February 2024

Inquest Costs: Separately Recoverable under the Fixed Recoverable Costs Regime

Author: Leila Benyounes

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has responded to the July 2023 consultation confirming that the costs of inquest proceedings will be recoverable separately, and the change will be inserted at CPR 45.1 (9) and come into force on 6 April 2024.

In the consultation, which opened on 21 July 2023 and closed on 8 September, the MoJ had indicated a provisional view that the costs of inquests should be separately recoverable to the FRC, and subject to assessment, if these costs were reasonable and proportionate. And in making the rule change, the MoJ has confirmed that inquest costs should only be recoverable to the extent that they would be anyway, outside of FRC.

The consultation highlighted recognition by the MoJ that as part of any proper investigation process, an inquest will typically pre-date, and may (to an extent at least) enable the litigation.

In the multi-track, where FRC will not apply, the costs involved in an inquest can be recoverable.

The MoJ also acknowledged as part of the consultation that without the addition of a new rule in the CPR to provide for the separate recoverability of inquest costs in FRC cases, that the level of costs involved in the inquest would make the pursuit of any claim for compensation uneconomic.

There were 74 responses to the consultation, which included a joint response from the Bar Council and the Personal Injuries Bar Association (PIBA). With the addition of this new rule for inquest costs, there appears to be recognition by the MOJ of the position outlined in the joint response from the Bar Council and PIBA that:

  • Inquests are an integral part of the process for investigating unnatural deaths and will inform and facilitate decisions taken about civil proceedings.
  • It would be wrong to be overly prescriptive in defining the cases when inquests costs ought to be recoverable. Those claims that may be made following an inquest are not limited to claims for dependency under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. There will be claims on behalf of the estate under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934; and accidents involving fatalities which found claims for family and non-family members for psychiatric injury as primary and secondary victims. Claims involving the deaths of children and young adults can be complex, but the damages recoverable can be limited to the levels set out in the Fast and Intermediate tracks.
  • Many cases involving inquests will be complex. There will be some cases when the facts of an inquest greatly assist the determination of civil liability, and admissions may be made, and judgment entered. These cases may be suitable for the Intermediate Track as a result. It is important that the CPR allow for inquest costs to be recovered in these circumstances.

The addition of the new rule to allow the costs of inquests proceedings to be recovered separately clearly addresses the wide concern shared by many, including the MoJ, that the FRC rules as previously drafted may have impeded solicitors’ ability to pursue claims, and therefore may have impacted on the future ability of bereaved families to obtain representation unless they were able to fund this, wholly or in part, themselves. The new rule will therefore be seen as a positive step for access to representation in the inquest process.

Leila Benyounes is Head of the Inquests Team at Parklane Plowden Chambers and is ranked as a leading junior in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners for Inquests and Inquiries. Leila’s full profile can be accessed here