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English v Emery Reinbold & Strick Limited & Two Other Appeals

8 May 2002
The issues

Inadequate Reasons – Inadequate Judgment

The facts

The Court of Appeal took three appeals on the same broad point. In Flannery v Halifax Estate Agencies Limited the Court of Appeal had allowed an Appeal on the basis of the Judge’s inadequate reasoning on the face of the Judgment. In each of these cases the Claimant appealed the first instance Judgment on the same basis.

The decision

1. Flannery preceded the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1988. In general terms there was no stricter requirement under Article 6(1) ECHR to give reasons than in English domestic law.

2. A Judge had a duty to provide a Judgment that clearly explained the order he was making.

3. If he had to resolve conflict of expert evidence he should provide an explanation as to why he preferred one expert over another. “The essential requirement is that the terms of the Judgment should enable the parties and any Appellant’s Tribunal readily to analyse the reasoning that was essential to the Judge’s decision”.

4. If an application for permission to appeal was made, the Trial Judge should provide additional reasons if he refused permission to appeal. If the Appellant Court felt that the Judge had not given adequate reasons it should invite the Judge to provide further reasons.

5. Where permission to Appeal is granted, the Appellant on the grounds that the Judgment does not contain adequate reasons, the Appellant Court should first review the Judgment in the context of the material evidence and submissions at the Trial to see whether it is apparent why the Judge reached the decision he did. If satisfied that the reason is apparent the Appeal will be dismissed. If the reason for the decision is not apparent, the Appeal Court will have to decide whether to proceed to a re-hearing or to direct a new Trial.

Generally an unsuccessful party should not challenge a Judgment on the ground of inadequacy of reasons unless despite its own knowledge of the evidence given and submissions made – that party could not understand why the Judge had reached the decision he had.

Comments

The Court of Appeal reached this decision in the case of English, not withstanding that it describes the Judgment as “a lamentable document, full of errors of spelling, punctuation and syntax” and as “rambling and in places unintelligible.”

If the Court of Appeal are to decide things on the basis of an “it was obvious” %u2026rather than a judgment – is this not a step towards palm tree justice and does this not place rather an unreasonable burden on the subjective understanding of the parties in the face of the Judge’s duty?

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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