Some remain surprised at what should or should not be included within the bundle, when they should be prepared, and the format they should be provided in.
In Re L (A Child)  EWFC, Sir James Munby expresses his annoyance at legal practitioners not following guidance in relation to the preparation of court bundles (PD27A refers to Practice Direction 27A – Family Proceedings: Court Bundles (Universal Practice to be applied in the High Court and Family Court)).
‘My experience, shared by far too many of my brethren, is that in this respect, as indeed in too many other respects, PD27A is frequently, indeed in some places routinely, ignored.’
Further on, he sets out that the court’s patience has come to an end, and gives the following stark warning:
This endemic failure of the professions to comply with PD27A must end, and it must end now. Fifteen years of default are enough. From now on:
i) Defaulters can have no complaint if they are exposed, and they should expect to be exposed, to public condemnation in judgments in which they are named.
ii) Defaulter may find themselves exposed to financial penalties..
iii) Defaulters may find themselves exposed to ..sanction..
It is worth noting that where one party is represented, the party with legal representation bears the responsibility for preparing the court bundle. Where neither party is represented, a bundle need only be prepared if the court asks for one. In those circumstances, it is important that the litigant-in-person, or the McKenzie Friend assisting them, gets it right. Where a party is represented, or supported by a legal adviser charging for their services, the court’s patience in future is likely to be somewhat limited!
Salient points to remember, which you may not be aware of (but please also read our full guide!):
- A Court Bundle must be prepared for all hearings (unless both parties are litigants-in-person, or the matter is urgent and it is impractical to lodge the bundle within the required timescale).
- Since July 2014, court bundles are limited to 350 pages and a single lever arch folder (the recent judgment warns that overly large bundles may be destroyed!);
- Unless specifically directed by the court, the bundle should not include correspondence (including letters of instruction to experts), medical records (including hospital, GP and health visitor records); bank statements, notes of contact visits, foster carer logs, social services files (with the exception of any assessment being relied on by any of the parties), or police disclosures.
Don’t panic. We have a guide on preparing a court bundle for you to follow (it’s been there for some time!). Our guide was built upon the rules set out in Practice Direction 27A and takes into account changes in 2014.