Judges’ patience with parties that fail to prepare electronic bundles with consistent page numbering is over and they can expect sanctions, the High Court has warned.
His Honour Judge Pearce, sitting as a High Court judge in Manchester, stressed that it was “essential” that electronic page numbering in bundles matched the numbering printed on the page.
“The need for this is repeatedly emphasised in court guidance, whether in the Supreme Court, the Administrative Court or the Business and Property Courts in Manchester,” he said.
“Whilst the courts may have been willing to tolerate problems early in the Covid-19 pandemic, when solicitors were struggling with new challenges, including a lack of the traditional support from those who might assist with preparing bundles, as well as the sudden need to get to grips with the challenges of preparing electronic bundles in all cases, there has been plenty of opportunity by now to get to grips with those challenges.
“I repeat that most court users have done. Those who have not must realise that they are likely to be sanctioned for the problems caused by such failures.”
HHJ Pearce made the comments in Hodgson v Creation Consumer Finance Ltd  EWHC 2167 (Comm), something of a test case for claims by people who bought solar panels that have not delivered on the promise of paying for themselves within 10 years.
Each of the three bundles began with an index which was not paginated, meaning that the page that bore the number 1 had a different electronic page number. In one of the bundles, three pages were paginated as 15a, 15b and 15c, putting the electronic number out further.
The judge said: “These discrepancies create considerable difficulty for advocates, witnesses and judge alike. Inevitably some people prefer to use paper bundles, other electronic bundles.
“The confusion causes delay and adds an extra burden to ensure that everyone is looking at the same page.”
HHJ Pearce decided that the claimant was entitled to recover £15,189 in respect of payments already made and to be made under the finance agreement for the panels, but had to give £12,029 of credit for past and anticipated future benefits from them.
He said that, by the case management conference last September, “it was apparent that there were a number of similar cases either already issued or close to being issued, and this case was treated as a case that might provide guidance to other cases…
“I understand that some other cases have been stayed pending judgment being handed down in this case.”