Ramaswamy v General Medical Council [2022] EWHC 732 (Admin) (31 March 2022)

The Claimant, Dr Sheela Ramaswamy, sought revocation or variation, pursuant to section 41A(10)(b) of the Medical Act 1983, of an order for interim conditional registration. The interim order was imposed on 14 September 2021 and reviewed at a recent hearing on 9 March 2022. A substantive hearing in the Medical Practitioners Tribunal is currently scheduled for 11 April 2022. The interim order, if it continues, is due to expire on 12 March 2023.

However, Dr Ramaswamy applied for an adjournment on the grounds that she “wishes to retain the services of the barrister who has represented her throughout all stages of the proceedings against her brought by the GMC, and at all stages of proceedings before this Court which have arisen out of those underlying proceedings. The barrister is not currently available, for reasons beyond their control.”

The GMC did not oppose the application but asked the High Court to do so on the basis that the Claimant should pay the entirety of the Defendant’s costs in relation to 3 matters: (i) first, the preparation of the court bundles; (ii) secondly, the preparation of the skeleton argument; and (iii) thirdly the attendance by solicitor and counsel in court.

Mr Justice Fordham agreed to the request to adjournment with a cost order of £2500 stating:

 “So far as the other two elements are concerned, in my judgment, the Defendant’s position as to costs following from the Court’s adjournment is irresistible. If the Claimant had taken the basic steps which were available to her, the case would have been adjourned, until such time as her barrister was available. Once the barrister was again available, the preparation of the bundles would have been carried out by him on her behalf as the Claimant. The Defendant would not have needed to be ‘stepping in’, to provide bundles to assist the Court. The costs incurred by the Defendant in conjunction with the preparation of bundles have been set out and verified in the costs schedule. They constitute £522 in costs, incurred by reference to work done by the solicitor in the case. It is in my judgment plainly appropriate Claimant should have to pay that element of the costs. The attendance at the hearing by the solicitor and Counsel acting for the Defendant is also an element of the costs for which it is plain that the Claimant should have to pay, in circumstances where the case is being adjourned. They were entirely foreseeable and entirely avoidable. I am able to assess – by way of a reduction from the time that would have been spent by the solicitor attending a full day’s hearing – the more modest sum of £391.50 as the solicitor costs of attending at the short hearing which has ensued, given the adjournment. I can take an appropriate ‘broad-brush’ approach to the composite fee of £6,460 for Counsel, which fee embodies the time spent on the skeleton argument, the preparation for and the attendance at the hearing. I was satisfied that £2,500 constitutes a reasonable and proportionate assessment of the costs which the Claimant should pay in relation to the preparation of the bundles, and in relation to the costs immediately incidental to and for attendance at the hearing, which hearing costs have been ‘thrown away’ by the Claimant’s actions in not following through on the step which was identified to her by the Court, and by not raising with the Court or with the Defendant any doubt or difficulty which she says she was encountering as to the implementation of that step. Mr Hare QC asked that the costs should be payable within 14 days that I was satisfied that a just and proportionate time-frame to pay the costs is 35 days.”

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