(Family Division; Baron J; 4 May 2007)
The couple had been married for 3 years. Following an ancillary relief order for the wife to receive about 36% of the couple's total net assets, the judge ordered the wife to pay 75% of the husband's costs, on the basis that she had failed to better an offer made by the husband at an early stage. The 25% discount related to the husband's failure promptly to disclose the existence of an insurance policy and an ISA. The wife rejected an offer from the husband to accept 29,000 in respect of the costs; the costs were subsequently assessed by the master at 29,000. The master ordered that the wife pay the costs of the assessment; the wife appealed against the assessment on the basis that the master had failed to take account of the husband's dishonest conduct in arriving at his decision.
A master, when considering costs, had the right and duty to consider whether misconduct was relevant on the facts. In this instance the judge hearing the ancillary relief case had already taken the husband's dishonesty fully into account. The amount of the husband's costs deducted by the judge had been appropriate, and if more money had been deducted by the master on account of the same dishonesty, the husband would have suffered double jeopardy.