What? Surely this must create legal precedent. Whatever could have caused silence to reign, albeit briefly, in the High Court sitting in Manchester (as reported in the Independent today)?
Lean closer, friends, and I will tell you. That which rendered Mr Justice Mostyn to drop his jaw, aghast, even for that brief but golden moment, that which caused him to draw a sharp intake of breath, which perhaps even brought about a pinkness of cheek or a small gurgle of horror, was –
But perhaps you have seen the report already. Perhaps you are already aware of the shocking truth. Should I spoil it for you? Yes, I think I will.
The truth, as exposed by one of the pre-eminent family silks of his generation (some would say the pre-eminent silk of his generation) is that some people, yes – some people! – are prepared to spend a lot of money going to court! I know!
Even as he professed himself to be “almost lost for words”, the judge – surely one of the most experienced and most sought after silks of his time – somehow managed to find the words to describe the parties’ appetite for litigation as “madness”. The couple in question, worth “less than” £2.9m, had chosen to spend more than £900,000 of their wealth on litigation. Quickly regaining his breath, the judge said, “The time has come when the law-makers in this country, whether they are legislators or judges, must stop saying something must be done and actually do something”.
What was his suggestion? You know he had one, don’t you? His suggestion was that there should be “fixed pricing for cases”. Would that be fixed pricing for all cases, I wonder? Or just the sort of complex, high worth, high octane, high adversity High Court cases that, until relatively recently – dare I say it? (yes, I think I do), Mr Mostyn QC himself was advocating?