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The fees for an independent interpreter are recoverable in Fast Track claims.


In Santiago v Motor Insurers’ Bureau [2023] EWCA Civ 838 the Court of Appeal held that, in a case to which Section IIIA of CPR 45 applies, the fees for an independent interpreter are recoverable where reasonably incurred due to a particular feature of the dispute under CPR 45.29I(2)(h).

Factual circumstances

The appellant is a Brazilian national who speaks Portuguese and has a grasp of English. He was involved in a road traffic accident and issued proceedings for damages for personal injury and financial loss.

An independent interpreter was booked and attended to provide interpreter services before trial and, as necessary, to interpret during the trial. The parties reached settlement before the trial started and upon summary assessment, a claim for ‘interpreter at trial’ fees of £924.

The Rules

CPR 45.29I provides:

“(1) Subject to paragraphs (2A) to (2E), the court –

      (a) may allow a claim for a disbursement of a type mentioned in paragraphs (2) or (3); but

      (b) will not allow a claim for any other type of disbursement.”

(2) In a claim started under the RTA Protocol, the EL/PL Protocol or the Pre-Action Protocol for Resolution of Package Travel Claims, the disbursements referred to in paragraph (1) are –

… (h) any other disbursement reasonably incurred due to a particular feature of the dispute.”

Summary assessment

The Deputy District Judge felt constrained by the Court of Appeal decision in Cham v Aldred [2019] EWCA Civ 1780 in which LJ Coulson said:

“35. … The fact that, in a particular case, a claimant is a child, or someone who cannot speak English, or who requires an intermediary, is nothing whatever to do with the dispute itself. Age, linguistic ability and mental wellbeing are all characteristics of the claimant regardless of the dispute. They are not generated by or linked in any way to the dispute itself and cannot, therefore be said to be a particular feature of that dispute.

Appellant’s submissions

The appellant submitted that:

  • The comments in Cham were strictly obiter. If the word “other” indicates that the disbursements listed in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g), such as travel, accommodation and loss of earnings are to be regarded as “disbursements incurred due to a particular feature of the dispute”, then so are the fees for an independent interpreter.
  • The changes in the overriding objective have changed the context of the interpretation of (h) to ensure that a vulnerable person, like the appellant, can fully participate in the proceedings.

Respondent’s submissions

The respondent submitted that:

  • The reasoning in Cham that led to the exclusion of counsel’s fees is directly applicable to interpreter’s fees. Cham is a binding authority which the court should follow.
  • The changes to the overriding objective are not material or relevant to the facts of this case;
  • The word ‘other’ does not have any significance attached to it;
  • The engagement of an interpreter is already included in the ‘fixed costs’ provided under the rules; and
  • The fixed costs regime is a ‘swings and roundabouts’ regime under which solicitors will be under-rewarded in some cases and over-rewarded in others.


The Court of Appeal held that:

  • The comments in Cham are strictly obiter. The court is obliged to seek to give effect to that objective when interpreting subparagraph (h).
  • An interpreter is essential if a person or witness who does not speak adequate English is to participate fully in proceedings or give their best evidence.
  • The costs of an interpreter are not included in the ‘fixed costs’ because there is a division between the lawyer’s fees remunerated by the fixed recoverable costs and the disbursements which are not lawyer’s fees.

The court distinguished Cham on the basis of access to justice. The counsel’s fee in Cham was needed for an opinion after settlement had been reached. If there is no opinion the claim can proceed to judgment without impediment and with the parties on an equal footing.

Whereas, absent interpreter services, a party is precluded from having access to the court permitting them to participate on an equal footing.

LJ Stuart-Smith said: “… in my judgment, … the independent interpreter’s fee (assuming it to be reasonably incurred) is properly to be regarded as a disbursement falling within sub-paragraph (h)”


This judgment has important repercussions as it opens the door to the recoverability of agency fees claimed in fee notes for interpreter services.

In this case, the appellant’s solicitor, Bond Turner, described the £924 fee as a fee for an ‘Interpreter at trial’. An advice note from Professional and Legal Services Limited was disclosed in support of the fee claimed.  

The appeal resolves the issue as to whether the fees of an independent interpreter are recoverable in principle. However, it raises an issue of whether an agency fee for obtaining the services of an interpreter is recoverable under CPR 45.29I(2)(h).The Court of Appeal has remitted the fee claimed in this case back to County Court for the Deputy District Judge to determine.

Howard Dean

Howard Dean
Head of Costs

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