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Roberts v Williams, Court of Appeal, 18 May 2005

1 June 2005
The issues

Late Evidence – Whether Defendant Entitled To Rely On Evidence Lately Disclosed – Was The District Judge Correct To Refuse To Allow Evidence To Be Adduced On The Basis Of Adjournment Of Trial Would Have Been Necessary.

The facts

The Claimant and Defendant were parties to a neighbour dispute involving alleged encroachment on a right of way. The Defendants denied the allegations and counter claimed for trespass.

Six weeks before Trial the Defendant produced a witness statement relevant to an issue in the claim. The District Judge refused the evidence to be adduced on the basis that it would require adjournment and moreover that the statement raised a new issue in the claim and it would not have been equitable to allow it at that stage. The Defendants appealed to the Judge and the claim was dismissed. The Defendant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The statement related to the repetition of assurances made by a solicitor acting for the Claimant that certain works would be carried out which were the subject of the dispute were permissible.

The decision

The statement was relevant to the issue of whether or not the Defendant had consented to the works which were alleged to be an encroachment on the right of way.
The issue had been raised to some extent in the Defence.
It was unsatisfactory for the Trial Judge to hear only part of the evidence relevant to that issue.
The District Judge should have been slow to exclude the evidence since in particular it was not clear that an adjournment would have been required for the statement to have been dealt with.
Moreover, at the time the matter came before the Judge on appeal, the Trial had already been adjourned and the Trial Judge should have re-visited the matter having regard to that fact.

Appeal allowed

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