By Lucy Caulkett And Bethany Ruby Rose-
A Court of Appeal judge has discredited the legal skills of lawyers in presenting proper grounds for why an appeal should succeed. Lord Justice Hickinbottom said barristers and their clients should expect harsh treatment if they continue to burden the courts with irrelevant and lengthy submissions.
Justice Hickinbottom made reference to a deportation case in Harverye v The Secretary of State for the Home Department , where he reminded lawyers to be conscious of the rules about documents submitted for appeal hearings. The case related to a Zimbabwe national who was appealing against his deportation, but lost his appeal simply by failing to present relevant arguments. Hickinbottom said a ‘straightforward and narrow’ issue was ‘all but lost in the plethora of paper’ involved with the appeal. He said the court was forced to spend considerable time and effort on issues that were never going to be relevant.
In a discrediting comments to barristers, he said the presented grounds of appeal, skeleton arguments and oral submissions often‘lacked the required and expected focus’.
‘The grounds of appeal are the well from which the argument must flow,’ added the judge. ‘The reasons why it is said the decision is wrong or unjust must not be included in the grounds, and must be confined to the skeleton argument.’
Hickinbottom LJ said that where a skeleton argument did not comply with requirements set out in Civil Procedure Rules, it may be returned to its author by the Civil Appeals Office and ultimately costs for drafting it disallowed.
’Where there is a failure to comply with such important mandatory procedural rules, the courts have a variety of sanctions (including costs orders) at their command,’ he added. He said compliance with the rules will ensure that appeal hearings are properly focused and can have the resources devoted to them that they deserve. Making reference to another case in Hickey, the judge usefully pointed out that sometimes appellants mare granted [permission to appeal on grounds that are different to those actually used when their hearing date actually arrives.
Hickinbottom LJ said that where an appellant proposes substantial changes to the grounds of appeal from those upon which he has obtained permission to appeal but has made no application – or no reasonably prompt application – to amend, he ‘should not expect an appeal court to be sympathetic’. His warning is useful, but also raises questions relating to the professional competence of barristers who should know how to present a successful appeal