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Editorial: Handing Down Judgment - Aidan Ellis, Temple Garden Chambers

25/07/19. Two of my hearings recently overran, with the result that judgment was reserved and a further hearing was listed for judgment to be handed down. The subsequent progression of the cases was rather different. In the first, the Judge prepared a written judgment which was sent to the parties in advance of the return date. As a result, the parties were able to agree the costs consequences and hence avoid the need to incur the cost of attending the further hearing. In the second, the hearing was listed some months after the trial (after taking into account dates to avoid), the parties had to attend in order for the Judge to read out a short oral decision and then deal with the costs consequences.

Reflecting on these contrasting experiences, it is respectfully suggested that the preparation and advance circulation of a written judgment in these circumstances has significant advantages. First, from a costs perspective, the parties (particularly the paying party) may well prefer to have the opportunity to avoid the cost of attending a further hearing for the handing down of judgment. With advance sight of the Judgment, in many cases sensible litigants will be able to agree the consequential costs orders (there will of course be exceptions where, for instance, one party wishes to take conduct points). More prosaically, the fixed costs regime applicable to fast track cases makes no allowance for the costs of a second hearing to hand down judgment. Second, judgment is often reserved because the factual and legal issues are sufficiently complicated that the Court has not been able to resolve them in the allotted time. In those circumstances, the preparation of a written Judgment is helpful to the parties because it allows an early opportunity to consider whether any appeal points arise.

It is, of course, appreciated that the burden of preparing a written Judgment will add work to an already overburdened judiciary. It may be, however, that the negative effect of this additional burden is outweighed by the potential to save court time (by taking away the need for an additional hearing) in addition to the clear advantages to the parties identified above.

Aidan Ellis
Temple Garden Chambers

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