Master of the Rolls calls for ‘stricter measures’ as elite set sticks ruling across social media in error
Matrix Chambers has received a dressing down courtesy of the Court of Appeal after it inadvertently revealed the outcome of a case the day before judgment was handed down.
The elite set — home to some of the country’s finest legal minds — published a press release last Tuesday morning featuring a summary of the result in R (Counsel General for Wales) v Attorney General, an appeal by the Welsh government in a judicial review over the provisions of the Internal Market Act 2020.
The release, drafted by Matrix member Helen Mountfield QC, was posted to the set’s website as well as its Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, which boast a collective following of some 21,000.
The ruling reveals how the summary was published by a member of the set’s marketing team who incorrectly believed judgment was being handed down that day. It was taken down “some five hours later” when the error was brought to the set’s attention.
Mountfield QC and fellow Matrix barrister Mark Greaves, both of whom were involved in the case, “accepted personal responsibility for what occurred and apologised unreservedly to the court”, according to yesterday’s ruling. The set has also introduced a “revised practice” since the incident.
Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls, said breaches such as this “are not alone” and that he was aware “formally and informally of other breaches in other cases”.
“It seems anecdotally at least, that violations of the embargo on publicising either the content or the substance of draft judgments are becoming more frequent. The purpose of this judgment is not to castigate those whose inadvertent oversights gave rise to the breaches in this case, but to send a clear message to all those who receive embargoed judgments in advance of hand-down that the embargo must be respected.”
Accepting the set’s apology, Vos warned “in future, those who break embargoes can expect to find themselves the subject of contempt proceedings…”
In this case, Vos said it was not appropriate for members of the clerking team to be given a summary of its contents; drafting press releases is not a legitimate activity to undertake within the embargo; and the measures taken by Matrix to protect the confidentiality of the draft judgment and its contents were “lax”.
The top judge added that “far stricter measures need to be put in place by anyone who is given the privilege of seeing an embargoed draft judgment before it is handed down and thereby put into the public domain”.
In a statement, Matrix said:
“Last week the substance of a judgment was mistakenly published on Matrix’s website and social media for a short time on the day before the official hand-down in court. Immediately after the mistake was noticed, it was taken down and the court and parties notified of the inadvertent but nonetheless serious breach. Matrix and the counsel involved apologised to the Court and made immediate amendments to chambers’ internal processes to ensure this error will not be repeated in the future.”
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