Newcastle University student's plea for clemency fails as he's left facing £100k legal bill

Paul Crawford - who sued professors at Newcastle University after he failed his medical degree by one mark - told he must pay court costs

Paul Crawford
Paul Crawford

A student's plea for clemency has failed after judges ruled he should foot a legal bill that could top £100,000 for his unsuccessful bid to sue his professors.

Paul Crawford begged Newcastle University chiefs not to bankrupt him after he failed his six-year medical degree by one mark and launched a High Court action.

After one of the UK’s top judges dismissed his claims that professors had breached their contract he wrote an open letter saying he had racked up huge bills and solicitors “cannot get blood out of a stone”.

Now, in a written statement, Deputy Judge Andrew Grubb has ruled Mr Crawford is liable for a legal bill originally thought to have been worth £90,000. With the latest court costs it’s feared that figure could top £100,000.

Despite the fierce criticism of Mr Crawford’s decision to pursue the university through the courts, his legal team last night indicated they would seek permission to appeal Judge Grubb’s ruling.

Striking out the 32-year-old’s claims that he was penniless, Judge Grubb said: “I have grave doubts as to whether impecuniosity is relevant in deciding whether a party should in principle be subject to an order for costs.

“However, in this case there is no evidence that the claimant is impecunious and so, in any event, it cannot be a relevant factor in exercising my discretion to depart from the general rule that the claimant should pay the defendant’s costs.”

Mr Crawford, who is originally from Kilburn, London, but now lives in Australia, began his studies on Tyneside in October 2005 and completed the first four stages of his degree with no problems.

But in 2010 he failed the final year and was forced to re-sit the year. In October 2011 he was awarded a B grade, which is a borderline fail, in the Clinical and Communication Skills domain and was once again told he had failed.

But after a judge dismissed his claim the university had acted incorrectly he begged them not to pursue him for costs.

He claimed he has no assets, his parents were unable to foot the bill and he had piled up credit card debts totalling £6,500.

Mr Crawford, who was a member of the university’s basketball and hockey team, said his failure had been down to a “momentary mistake” and urged the university not to pursue him for costs, claiming it “could look a somewhat vindictive course”.

Claiming the costs would render him bankrupt, he wrote: “My wish is now to be able to draw a line under this whole affair.”

Speaking last night Mr Crawford’s barrister, Anthony Speaight QC, criticised the university for failing to enter into mediation with his client and said application had been lodged with the Court of Appeal to appeal against the costs decision.

He said: “The 20-page judgment deals with a number of arguments as to costs, in particular the relevance of the university’s unwillingness to engage in mediation.

“The judge described the university’s failure to respond to Paul Crawford’s invitation to mediate as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘discourteous’, but held that in the circumstances this should make no difference to the costs outcome.”

Mr Crawford - whose brother Jack Crawford became one of the first British players to join an NFL American football club in the USA in 2012 - made a string of appeals internally and to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education over the issue.

Newcastle University officials have repeatedly declined to comment on the court action.

In a statement released last night a spokeswoman said: “The university is satisfied with the court’s decision.”

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