September 17, 2021

England and Wales: A judge has power to reconsider a judgement

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By Anthony Wright

References: [1973] 1 WLR 19, [1972] 3 All ER 631 
Coram: Russell LJ 
Ratio: A judge has power to reconsider a judgement which he has delivered before the order consequent upon it has been sealed, but the judge should only exercise this power if there are strong reasons for doing so. When oral judgments have been given the successful party ought, save in the most exceptional circumstances, to be able to assume that the judgment is a valid and effective one. Here, the contemnor obtained from the court her release from custody but was ordered to pay the costs of her application for release.
Russell LJ said: ‘When oral judgments have been given, either in a court of first instance or on appeal, the successful party ought save in most exceptional circumstances to be able to assume that the judgment is a valid and effective one . . The cases to which we were referred in which judgments in civil courts have been varied after delivery (apart from the correction of slips) were all cases in which some most unusual element was present . . In all these cases there were circumstances of a wholly exceptional character d. 
It is clearly not permissible for a party to ask for a further hearing merely because he has thought of a possible ground of appeal that he originally overlooked. The discovery of fresh evidence has never been suggested as a ground for reopening the argument before the Court of Appeal. If fresh evidence comes to light, of such a character as to call for further consideration of the issues, the right way to deal with the situation is by applying for leave to appeal to the House of Lords: see Murphy v. Stone-Wallwork (Charlton) Ltd [1961] 1 WLR 1023; or, if such appeal be not available in a contempt case, by application for release.’ 
Jurisdiction: England and Wales 
This case is cited by:
  • Cited – Taylor v Lawrence CA (Times 04-Feb-02, Bailii, Gazette 21-Mar-02, [2002] EWCA Civ 90, [2002] 2 All ER 353, [2002] 3 WLR 640, [2003] QB 528) 
    A party sought to re-open a judgment on the Court of Appeal after it had been perfected. A case had been tried before a judge. One party had asked for a different judge to be appointed, after the judge disclosed that he had been a client of the firm . .
  • Cited – Bowerbank v Amos (Formerly Staff) CA (Bailii, [2003] EWCA Civ 1161, Gazette 16-Oct-03) 
    The parties had gone into business together. After a breakdown, they had now spent very considerable sums in litigation. At the trial, the judge allowed an amendment of the claim after the close of evidence. He considered that it related to matters . .
  • Cited – Stewart v Engel, BDO Stoy Hayward CA (Times 26-May-00, [2000] 1 WLR 2268, Bailii, [2000] EWCA Civ 362, [2000] 3 All ER 518, [2001] ECDR 25, [2001] CP Rep 9) 
    A judge may reopen a case even after he has delivered his final judgment. A judge invited counsel to amend his pleading to incorporate an improvement, but in the face of his repeated failure to take up the invitation, entered final judgment against . .
  • Cited – Symes v Phillips and others CA (Bailii, [2005] EWCA Civ 663) 
    The applicant was in contempt of court. He successfully appealed a sentence of two years imprisonment, with the sentence being reduced to one year. Legally aided, he sought his costs from the claimant. The claimant replied that their part was only . .
  • Cited – Ultraframe (UK) Ltd v Fielding and others ChD (Bailii, [2005] EWHC 2506 (Ch)) 
    Ultraframe asked the judge to re-open his ‘in the round’ decision on costs. 
    Held: The decision questioned was not a draft, but a concluded judgment. The judge said that he had not made such a ‘palpable error’ in his order as to give him . .
  • Cited – Baxendale-Walker v The Law Society Admn (Bailii, [2006] EWHC 643 (Admin), Times 17-May-06, [2006] 3 All ER 675, [2006] 5 Costs LR 696) 
    The solicitor appealed being struck off. He had given a character reference in circumstances where he did not have justification for the assessment. 
    Held: ‘The appellant knew that Barclays Bank trusted him to provide a truthful reference. . .
  • Cited – Judge v Judge and others CA (Bailii, [2008] EWCA Civ 1458, [2009] 1 FLR 1287) 
    The wife appealed against an order refusing to set aside an earlier order for ancillary relief in her divorce proeedings, arguing that it had been made under a mistake. The sum available for division had had deducted an expected liabiliity to the . .
  • Cited – Sheikh and Another v Dogan and Others ChD (Bailii, [2009] EWHC 2935 (Ch)) 
    The judge had reserved his judgment, but had since received further voluminous representations from a party. 
    Held: None of the matters raised suggested a proper reason for exercising the jurisdiction given by In re Barrell. The claimant was . .
  • Cited – Abacha and Another v Compagnie Noga D’Importantion Et D’Exportation Sa QBD ([2001] 3 All ER 513, Bailii, [2001] EWHC QB B1, [2001] CP Rep 93) 
    The court had handed to the parties a draft judgement, but one party then asked the judge to reconsider it.
    Rix LJ referred to the need to balance the concern for finality against the ‘proper concern that courts should not be held by their own . .
  • Cited – McKeown v British Horseracing Authority Admn (Bailii, [2010] EWHC 508 (Admin)) 
    The judge had been asked to revise his draft judgment. The court set out the circumstances under which a draft judgment might be amended and why in this case he had rejected the request save as to clerical errors. . .
  • Cited – Re L and B (Children) SC (Bailii, [2013] UKSC 8, [2013] 1 WLR 634, WLRDBailii Summary, UKSC 2012/0263, SC SummarySC, [2013] WLR(D) 69, [2013] 2 All ER 294, [2013] 2 FCR 19, [2013] 2 FLR 859, [2013] Fam Law 664) 
    The court was asked as to the extent to which a court, having once declared its decision, could later change its mind. Though this case arose with in care proceedings, the court asked it as a general question. The judge in a fact finding hearing in . .
  • Cited – TZ v General Medical Council Admn (Bailii, [2015] EWHC 1001 (Admin)) 
    Appeal against decision of a Fitness to Practise Panel holding that the Appellant’s fitness to practise as a medical practitioner was impaired by reason of his misconduct. It directed that his name be erased from the Medical Register under section . .
(This list may be incomplete)
Last Update: 04 August 2017 
Ref: 182395
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