Tory MS Nick Ramsay must pay further £19k legal fees to local party

By David Deans
BBC News

  • Published
Nick RamsayImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Nick Ramsay will not be standing as a Conservative at the May election

The High Court has ordered a Tory Member of the Senedd to pay £19,200 in legal costs to his local party.

It is the second time Nick Ramsay has been told to pay costs to the Monmouth Conservative Association.

It launched legal proceedings in January to get him to pay £25,000 from a dispute over his deselection last year. The association won the new costs despite Mr Ramsay paying last week.

The Monmouth MS said he was focused on representing his constituents.

Mr Justice Marcus Smith, sitting in a virtual court hearing, ruled Mr Ramsay should pay the association's chairman Nick Hackett-Pain £16,000 plus VAT within a timeframe of 21 days.

The period was extended from 14 days, after a barrister for Mr Ramsay said payment within the two weeks would be "problematic".

Association lawyers had been seeking an application for a court to hold Mr Ramsay in contempt. They dropped the application at Friday's hearing, but asked for their costs to be paid.

With the application withdrawn the judge did not give a view on whether Mr Ramsay was in contempt. Mr Ramsay said he "clearly" was not.

The hearing stemmed from legal proceedings Mr Ramsay conducted last year to stop a meeting where members wanted to discuss deselecting him.

Mr Ramsay withdrew his application for an interim injunction at the hearing, but a judge made an order that required him to pay £25,000 to the association.

As part of the order Mr Ramsay also had to file a claim - not done at the time of the original case - detailing his case against the association.

The politician had agreed to file the claim in an undertaking to the court. Mr Ramsay did not make the claim and had refused last year to pay the money.

To get him to fulfil the order the association filed an application for a judge to hold Mr Ramsay in contempt.

The local party feared that, without the claim filed, it could have been subject to future legal challenges by Mr Ramsay.

Members proceeded to deselect Mr Ramsay and the MS himself withdrew from a reselection meeting held last Friday, when he also announced that he would pay the association's fees.

The court heard the MS's legal team said in a letter that he would not pursue the claim any further.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Ramsay's constituency includes the town of Monmouth

Mr Justice Smith told the hearing: "It seems to me there is a misapprehension on the part of Mr Ramsay on the seriousness of undertakings given to the court."

He added: "The unfortunate position is that after this order was made pretty much nothing happened."

The judge it was not an "unconscious failing or a mere slip. It was a perfectly deliberate failing," he said, referring to a letter from Mr Ramsay's lawyers to the association where he said he would not be paying costs.

Mr Justice Smith was critical of the association for using a contempt order to obtain their costs, saying it was with "vanishing rarity" that they were used in such a way and it was not justifiable.

Because of this he discounted the costs awarded to the association by £4,000 from £20,000 plus VAT.

'Staggering'

Greg Callus, barrister for the association's chairman, said it was "staggering" that a politician from the Welsh Parliament had refused to follow a judge's order.

"We're dealing with an elected member of a national legislature wilfully refusing to abide by an order of the High Court," he said.

He defended the association's decision to use contempt proceedings against the sitting Senedd member, saying the association had been trying to "force" Mr Ramsay to comply.

Philip Williams, for Mr Ramsay, said a notice on the original costs order in November that suggested Mr Ramsay could have gone to prison if he did not pay the £25,000 was "bizarre".

"I've never seen a penal notice in relation to a costs order - never," he said.

He asked for costs to be awarded to Mr Ramsay, saying that his own fees amounted to £10,000 over four days. The judge declined the request.

After the hearing Mr Ramsay said he was "pleased with today's outcome" and "glad" the application for contempt was withdrawn.

"I clearly was not in contempt. I am pleased that the court penalised them in costs.

"It is highly unfortunate that the association has been left financially out of pocket as a result of these actions."

Nick Hackett-Pain said: "We are pleased with the outcome. The judge made a fair decision in ordering Nick Ramsay to pay the association £19,200."