Can The Law Change As Society Changes?
Posted on 3rd April 2020
It is not unusual for two parties on the opposite side of a case to argue over the interpretations of a Regulation, Rule, or even Case-Law. However, the 2019 High Court case went a step further, with three conflicting potential Directions to follow. At MG Legal, your Property Solicitor in Garstang, we do our best to stay up to date on development which could affect our clients and this case was an interesting one.
How did this happen?
The case itself is not really of great importance, it was an ownership dispute over Sheffield United Football Club which ultimately resulted in one owner being Ordered to transfer their shares to another as part of a managed “partnership” agreement set out previously.
The issue of the day, in an interim Hearing, was how the parties were meant to deal with Disclosure. Disclosure is the stage of Proceedings where all parties must list what evidence that intend to rely upon and so allow their opponents to inspect it.
The case was initially assessed by the Court in 2018 and Directions given for “Standard Disclosure”, this being the default way of parties providing Disclosure to each other.
On 01st January 2019, a new Practice Direction (Practice Directions being specific guides attached to each part of the Civil Procedure Rules) regarding Disclosure came into force and it was believed that from then on, all cases would follow the new Disclosure Procedures.
As Directions had been given and because Directions are ‘set in stone’ the parties continued to follow the Standard Disclosure procedures.
The new White Book (effectively the Bible of Civil Procedures – every Judge, Solicitor and Barrister has access to one) indicated that with the advent of new Practice Directions, any previous Order would stand, unless it was set-aside or varied (changed) by the Court.
Confusing even for the Legal Representatives
The parties’ Legal Representatives, including numerous highly experienced Solicitors and Barristers, including a QC, believed they were right in following the original Directions, relying on the White Book to support this theory.
What did the Court make of it?
The High Court, specifically Sir Geoffrey Vos, stated that the White Book contained a mistake and that in fact, the new Practice Direction automatically overruled the previous Directions for Standard Disclosure and that the new Disclosure process should be followed.
Why is it relevant which Judge made this decision on the “error”?
Sir Geoffrey stating that the White Book contained an error is particularly interesting and a little frustrating, for one simple reason. Sir Geoffrey is the Editor-in-Chief of the White book which led the parties astray in the first place.
How rare is this?
In truth, this kind of scenario is pretty rare, although it is generally the case that the Court is asked to clarify points as they relate to individual cases.
Was there any punishment for not complying?
Fortunately, the case proceeded, and it was decided later in 2019. Although all parties involved had to repeat the Disclosure process to comply with the new, clarified interpretation.
How do I navigate my way though the confusing legal maze?
Unless your claim is one that falls into the Small Claims Track, where you are generally expected to follow a much simpler procedure, the best way to ensure you do not fall foul of the Law is to instruct MG Legal, your Property Solicitor in Garstang. We are experienced in all areas of everyday Civil matters including Property, Personal Injury, Family and Children matters and Wills, Powers of Attorney and Probate matters. Personal Injury claims are accepted on a Conditional Fee Agreement (no win, no fee agreement) basis with all other services offered on a fixed-fee basis wherever possible.
Simple get in touch with us by phone, email, web-contact form or at our offices in Lancaster, Garstang or Longridge and we will ensure you speak to the right member of the team. Contact MG Legal, your Property Solicitor in Garstang and we will look to get the ball rolling the same day.
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