Family Law Hub

Bundles: A Summary of the President's Guidance in Re L

The President issues robust reminders on bundles and new sanctions for defaulters

  • The President has issued robust reminders and guidance on the size and presentation of bundles in his judgment in Re L [2015] EWFC 15. 

    The judgment itself arose from a request in care proceedings for a complete bundle to be translated into Slovenian for the benefit of the father. That exercise would have cost c£23k partly because of the size of the bundle: it weighed in at 591 pages after being slimmed down from 989. In deciding whether the LAA's refusal to fund this work was correct, the President reviewed the relevant case law case law, including recent decisions by Mr Justice Mostyn J (J v J) and Mr Justice Holman (Seagrove v Sullivan) and PD27A to make the following points:

    • there is no such concept of a core bundle: "A judge, exercising the power conferred by para 5.1, may of course, in an appropriate case, direct that there is to be a single "core" bundle accompanied by other bundles arranged in accordance with directions given by the judge. But unless a judge has specifically directed, using the expression, that there is to be a "core bundle", the expression is not to be used: the obligation on the parties is to prepare a PD27A compliant"bundle". [13]
    • "PD27A para 5.1 requires the bundle to be contained in an "A4 size ring binder or lever arch file" (emphasis added). Too often this requirement is ignored and the bundle is contained in a foolscap binder or lever arch file. This will not do. This requirement must be complied with. " He explains that a foolscap binder takes up more space and presents logistical problems. [15]
    • "PD27A para 5.2 requires all documents in the bundle to be "copied on one side of paper only, unless the court has specifically directed otherwise" (emphasis added). Again there are reasons for this stipulation. Interleaving additional pages in a double sided bundle can be problematic. The blank left-side page can be used for notes." [16]
    • "Compliance with PD27A para 6.4 [lodging before 11am on the day before the hearing] remains fitful.". This is an essential condition and must be observed. [17]
    • Additional bundles , such as a "Witness Bundle", must not be lodged. If they are "counter-staff at court offices will be instructed to refuse to accept witness bundles, unless a judge has specifically directed that they are to be lodged, and to require whoever is trying to lodge them to take them away. If witness bundles are sent by post, or by DX or delivered by couriers who refuse to take them away, they will, unless a judge has specifically directed that they are to be lodged, be destroyed without any prior warning necessarily being given. They will not be delivered to the judge and will not be taken into the courtroom by court staff." [19]
    • PD27A stipulates that only documents that are relevant and it is necessary for the court to read or which will actually be referred to during the hearing should be included in te bundle "In other words, there is a double requirement to be satisfied".
    • PD27A also states that documents should be as short and as succinct as possible. All too often reports are too long (he cites a 150 age psychologists report he recently encountered). Accordingly "There is, in my judgment, no reason why case management judges should not, if appropriate, specify the maximum length of a skeleton argument, a witness statement, a local authority's assessment, an expert's report or, indeed, any other document prepared for the proceedings which will be included in the bundle."

    In view of all this he sets out some stern penalties for non-compliance from now on:

    i) Defaulters can have no complaint if they are exposed, and they should expect to be exposed, to public condemnation in judgments in which they are named.

    ii) "Defaulters may find themselves exposed to financial penalties of the kind referred to by Mostyn J in J v J." In that judgment Mostyn J raised the idea of a delinquents court analogous to that in the QB division which may involve financial sanctions.

    iii) Defaulters may find themselves exposed to the sanction meted out by Holman J in Seagrove v Sullivan. In that judgment Holman J had given the parties the night to agree a bundle of 300 pages or choose a maximum of 150 pages each (the skeletons and chronology accounted for the other 50). 

    The full judgment can be read on the Judiciary website.

News, published: 02/03/2015

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Published: 02/03/2015

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