MRH Solicitors Ltd v The County Court Sitting at Manchester & Ors [2015] EWHC 1795 (Admin)

The team at PIC regularly refer to recent judgements within our bi-monthly blogs and the interesting outcomes that take place. This week Charlotte Brasher explores MRH Solicitors Ltd v The County Court Sitting at Manchester & Ors [2015] EWHC 1795 (Admin)

Transcripts made after oral judgments have been plunged into the spotlight following the recent High Court case of MRH Solicitors Ltd v The County Court Sitting at Manchester & Ors [2015] EWHC 1795 (Admin)

The case centred around a Bolton based law firm who won a judicial review against the decision of Mr Recorder Osborne, sitting in Manchester County Court, who had accused the firm of being a party to a ‘crash for cash’ fraud. The firm had no opportunity to rebut this allegation. Following the decision, the firm asked if it could make submissions as to why his transcript should be amended.

This shake up holds positive ramifications when changes, which are more than typographical, are required to the approved transcript.

Mr Justice Nicol, sitting with Lord Justice Burnett, described how the assertion that he did not have the power to edit the transcript, since judgment had already been given orally, was wrong. The confusion, it seems rested around the point that if judgment had been given orally, it could have been heard by anyone who happened to be sitting in open court.

Clarifying, Nicol J stated that as the judgment of the road traffic claim in this case had taken place in open court, the public were free to attend and such hearings are to be treated as public, regardless of whether members of the public choose to exercise their right to attend.

Crucially, he expanded; “Subject to immaterial statutory exceptions or contrary orders of the court, what takes place in open court can be freely reported. In a sense, therefore, the Recorder was right that this genie could not be put back in the bottle… However, it is common practice for a judge who gives an oral ex tempore judgment to refine it…ordinarily, this is limited to tidying up the language, but in principle we see no reason why it may not include more significant changes… it is a matter for the judge’s discretion as to what changes are appropriate.

From a practical perspective, this ruling poses important considerations. Firstly, it seems that this case is unusual and in effect, turns on its own facts. Moving forward, perhaps the issue could have been dealt with differently; the ‘wronged’ party instead applying to be joined as a party, in turn giving rise to an Order and meaning judicial review would not be required.

Secondly, and conceivably even more problematic, is the question of how the judge’s discretion as to what changes are appropriate is to be exercised? Whilst this discretion will, of course, be exercised judicially, the absence of more precise guidance can, it would appear, only result in a lack of uniformity and consistency across the spectrum.