B v B: Another warning on bundles

The case of B v B [2012] EWHC 1924 (Fam), decided today, contains another judicial warning upon the preparation of court bundles. The case concerned a jurisdiction dispute in a children matter, but at the end of her judgment Mrs Justice Theis DBE had the following to say:
"Failure to comply with the bundle Practice Direction

25. It is nearly six years since Sir Mark Potter P issued Practice Direction: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be Applied in all Courts other than the Family Proceedings Court) [2006] 2 FLR 199 (now in Practice Direction 27A Family Procedure Rules 2010). As was observed nearly 4 years ago by Munby J (as he then was) in In Re X & Y (Bundles) [2008] EWHC 2058 (Fam) the Practice Direction was still being honoured more in the breach than in the observance. My experience is that 4 years later, sadly, this remains the position.

26. The Practice Direction could not be clearer about what should be done. The preliminary documents (paragraph 4.2) shall (emphasis added) be lodged with the court no later than 11 am on the day before the hearing and, where the hearing is before a judge of the High Court and the name of the judge is known, shall at the same time be sent by e-mail to the judge's clerk (paragraph 6.4).

27. In this case the bundle was lodged (late) with no updating information in it (the last order and updating statements were missing). There were no position statements or skeleton arguments. It was not clear what the hearing was listed for from the bundle, even though the matter was listed for a day. Following enquires made outside court by my clerk on the morning of the hearing two position statements were given to her, one of them had a 46 page attachment enclosing copies of various authorities. This is a case where the parties were represented by experienced counsel in a privately funded case.

28. The consequence of what I regard as the complete failure by both counsel in this case to file their documents in accordance with the Practice Direction is that I had to reserve judgment, as there was simply not enough time that day to hear submissions and give judgment. If the documents had been filed in accordance with the Practice Direction I would very likely have given judgment that day. It is the court that has been put to inconvenience.

29. I associate myself with the sentiments and frustration expressed by Munby J in In Re X & Y (ibid) which I expect is shared by the other family judges, not only those in the Family Division. His judgment at paragraphs 18 and 19 warned the profession of the consequences of default, as set out in Paragraph 12 of the Practice Direction. This judgment is another wake up call to the profession to comply with the Practice Direction because, as Munby J observed, next time a defaulter may not be so lucky."
You have been warned!


  1. As a non-lawyer...but avid reader and lover of language and literature....I adore reading some judges summaries....and I felt my pleasure senses tickled by such an elegant and linguistically reserved manner which neverthe less bit like a crocodile on speed...how do you do that....what a gift

  2. Northern Lights14 July 2012 at 12:43

    About time something was done about this. A lesser problem than bundles is late filing of statements, sometimes on the morning of the hearing.
    I was handed a 47 page statement by the other side last week, 17 days late and 15mins before going into court. Most of it was rubbish anyway but it meant the judge passing the case until the afternoon to give us a chance to go through it.
    Judges have been too lax about this for too long, in my view and that has just encouraged it.

    1. Yes, there does seem to be a lot of judicial complaining, but little action.


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