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Family lawyers face new curbs on court bundles

The Law Gazette

The president of the Family Division has proposed introducing mandatory restrictions on the number of pages in court documents for family cases, alleging that lawyers have ignored previous calls for restraint.

Last February Sir James Munby (pictured) criticised lawyers for ‘routinely’ ignoring practice directions imposing a 350-page limit on bundles, warning that surplus court documents would be destroyed without notice if practitioners cannot keep to these directions.

But in proposals published for consultation today, Munby says he is ‘not conscious’ this has had much effect, and that the time may have now come to impose page limits for certain types of documents.

These are not currently regulated by practice directions.

The limits would be mandatory unless the court specifically directs otherwise.

Munby has proposed amending the practice directions to specify limits on the number of sheets of paper specific documents should contain. The proposals include a 10-page cap on skeleton arguments, a maximum of 20 pages for witness statements and 40 pages for expert reports.

He has also suggested amending the rules to specify that bundles should not contain more than ten authorities.

Munby said the need for mandatory restrictions was highlighted by the case of Seagrove v Sullivan, when a family judge removed most case documents from court after the parties’ lawyers submitted 3,500 pages of documents from 32 authorities for consideration ahead of a proposed eight-day trial.

Munby is asking for opinions on whether his proposals are desirable, and if so whether the length would be controlled by page count or word count, and if by page count what figures are appropriate.

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