Judge complains after being handed bundle containing 2,000 pages of ‘largely irrelevant material’

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Size really does matter, according to Mr Justice Holgate

A High Court judge has fired off a warning to lawyers that unreasonably large trial bundles will not be tolerated after being handed 2,000 pages of “largely irrelevant material”.

Ruling in a recent judicial review application, Mr Justice Holgate took the opportunity to gently remind litigators that the court, under its wide case management powers, is fully prepared to make costs orders against a party for burdensome bundles — even if it wins.

Continuing, Holgate, sitting in the Planning Court, a specialist court within the Queen’s Bench Division, said judges “may consider refusing to accept excessively long skeletons or bundles or skeletons without proper cross-referencing.”

Holgate’s mini-rant is contained in the case of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, R v The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The claimant, represented by national outfit Bond Dickinson, successfully challenged a decision by a government inspector to approve a housing development in Cumbria.

However, despite the claimant succeeding, Holgate was quick to criticise their excessively long bundle. He said:

I regret the need to have to make some observations on the inappropriate manner in which the claim was put before the court… This claim was accompanied by six volumes comprising over 2,000 pages of largely irrelevant material.

It would appear the skeleton argument wasn’t up to his exacting standards either. Describing it as “long, diffuse and often confused”, he suggested it offered “little help to the court”.

Holgate — who was appointed to the High Court in 2014 — suggested that a more modest core bundle of up to about 250 pages is generally sufficient, particularly in judicial review applications relating to planning matters.

However, sometimes it’s the judges themselves who are guilty of overdoing it.

Earlier this year Legal Cheek reported that an Australian judge had been criticised after he spent 17 hours reading aloud his own 138-page judgment. Incredibly, his ruling — which saw a man awarded almost AUS$340,000 (£200,000) when he was thrown from a horse — was later overturned.

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