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‘Plebgate’: The importance of giving serious consideration to offers during a claim

Liam O’Shea, Director and Solicitor in Astle Paterson’s Dispute Resolution & Litigation Department discusses the legal bill facing Andrew Mitchell MP following his failure to accept an offer he did not beat at Trial.

Liam noted “The former minister, Andrew Mitchell, faces an enormous legal bill after turning down the Sun’s offer to settle his ‘Plebgate’ libel case two months before he ultimately lost the case at Court.

The facts are now well known.  On 19th September 2012 Mr Mitchell MP wanted to cycle through Downing Street’s main gate – a Policeman attending the gate stopped him going through.  The Sun newspaper then ran a story alleging Andrew Mitchell called P.C. Rowland a ‘pleb’ in the ensuing argument.

Mr Mitchell MP denied this and issued a claim for libel against the Sun.

At the Trial of the libel claim, the Judge, Mr Justice Mitting heard the Sun had offered to effectively ‘drop-hands’, for both parties to stop the proceedings and bear their own legal costs and that there would be ‘no comment’ about the matter by either the Sun or Mr Mitchell.

However, Mr Mitchell refused the offer.

In the end Mr Mitchell lost the case – the Judge decided that on the balance of probability, Mr Mitchell had said the word ‘pleb.’

The former Minister now faces paying not only his own legal expenses, but also the legal expenses of both P.C. Rowland and the Sun.  When the offer to settle was made, the Sun’s legal costs were in the region of £500,000 but this amount will, of course, have increased significantly.

The final amount payable by Andrew Mitchell will be decided by a specialist Costs Judge, but is expected to be very high.”

Liam concluded “The art of legal proceedings is not only understanding what the strengths of your case are but also the weaknesses and risks involved.

At Astle Paterson we have a wealth of experience in Court cases and are able to provide you with objective, firm, advice where needed as to the potential pitfalls of failing to give serious consideration to a good offer of settlement.”

Should your business or you be in dispute then please contact Astle Paterson’s Dispute Resolution & Litigation Department on 01283 531366 or by email at loshea@astlepaterson.co.uk to discuss matters further.  

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