Bath v Escott: ChD 11 May 2017

Judgment need not follow hearing transcript

Application to have released the audio recording of a hearing to a county court, the applicant saying that the judgment was not a true record of the hearing.
Held: Rose J explained the status of the various elements: ‘the mere fact that the transcript of the judgment, as approved by the judge, and sent to the parties, is in any way different from the reasons actually pronounced by the judge at the time of giving judgment, is not wrong in law. Nor does it in itself even give rise to concern. It is an entirely lawful and proper practice for a judge, on receiving a transcript of what was said at the time in giving judgment, to alter that transcript, not only to correct garbled or incorrect transcriptions, spelling and grammatical mistakes, and even matters of style, but also so that the reasons recorded accurately reflect why the judge made the decision that he or she made, even if they were not then properly or fully articulated.
The starting point is that it is orders of the court that express the courts’ decisions. ‘Judgments’, in the popular sense, express only the courts’ reasons for those decisions. (There is an old, technical sense of ‘judgment’ meaning a final decision made at certain kinds of trial, but I am not using the word in that sense.) So it is court orders that are enforced, rather than judgments containing reasons. And appeals to higher courts are appeals against orders that are made by the court, rather than against their reasons. Thus when the judge decides a case, it is the order that is made at the end that is all-important, and the reasons simply explain the basis for the decision. Of course, when an appeal court considers an appeal against an order, it will want to see what the reasons were. But even if the reasons were wrong, the decision might still be right, and in that case the appeal would be dismissed.
It is clear law that a judge who gives reasons for a decision may alter those reasons, indeed sometimes even the decision itself, after having made them known to the parties. So, it has long been the practice for judges to revise transcripts taken of their judgments given in court for the purpose of publication. The courts have made clear that, if there are two reports of a decision available, one containing the judgment as revised by the judge, and the other simply giving a transcript as taken down by the shorthand writer, without revision by the judge, then the revised version will be preferred as more authoritative’

Paul Matthews HHJ
[2017] EWHC 1101 (Ch)
England and Wales
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CitedRoyal Brompton Hospital National Health Service Trust v Hammond and others HL 25-Apr-2002
The claimants sought damages against the defendants for their late delivery of a building. The contractors sought to share the damages with the architects who had certified the delays, defeating their own claims.
Held: The Act sought to extend . .
CitedSpace Airconditioning Plc v Guy and Another CA 14-Dec-2012
‘if a judgment contains what the judge acknowledges is an error when it is pointed out, the judgment should be corrected, unless there is some very good reason for not doing so. A judgment should be an accurate record of the judge’s findings and of . .
CitedRe L and B (Children) SC 20-Feb-2013
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CitedGreenwich Millennium Village Ltd v Essex Services Group Plc and Others CA 11-Jul-2014
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.583989