The judicial review/planning law case of Secretary of State for Local Government -v-  Hopkins Development Ltd [2014] EWCA Civ 470 contains some interesting observations of general interest to civil litigators.


Jackson L.J. prefaced his judgment with observations about the skeleton arguments in the case.

“16.I must also say a word about skeleton arguments. The rules governing skeleton arguments in the Court of Appeal are set out in Practice Direction 52A paragraph 5 and Practice Direction 52C paragraph 31. The skeleton arguments must be concise and, in any event, not exceed 25 pages. They must not include extensive quotations from documents or authorities. The way to highlight relevant passages in authorities is by sidelining, not by quoting long passages in the skeleton arguments.

 17. The skeleton arguments in this case do not comply with the Practice Direction. Accordingly, whichever party wins will not recover the costs of preparing its skeleton argument.”


It is clearly worthwhile those of us who draft skeleton arguments for a living having a look at the rules. Firstly Practice Direction 52A.



(1) The purpose of a skeleton argument is to assist the court by setting out as concisely as practicable the arguments upon which a party intends to rely.

(2) A skeleton argument must–

  • be concise;
  • both define and confine the areas of controversy;
  • be set out in numbered paragraphs;
  • be cross-referenced to any relevant document in the bundle;
  • be self-contained and not incorporate by reference material from previous skeleton arguments;
  • not include extensive quotations from documents or authorities.

(3) Documents to be relied on must be identified.

(4) Where it is necessary to refer to an authority, a skeleton argument must –

(a) state the proposition of law the authority demonstrates; and

(b) identify the parts of the authority that support the proposition.

If more than one authority is cited in support of a given proposition, the skeleton argument must briefly state why.

(5) The cost of preparing a skeleton argument which –

(a) does not comply with the requirements set out in this paragraph; or

(b) was not filed within the time limits provided by this Practice Direction (or any further time granted by the court),

will not be allowed on assessment except as directed by the court.

5.2  The parties should consider what other information the appeal court will need. This may include a list of persons who feature in the case or glossaries of technical terms. A chronology of relevant events will be necessary in most appeals.

5.3  Any statement of costs must show the amount claimed for the skeleton argument separately.”


Skeleton argument


(1) Any skeleton argument must comply with the provisions of Section 5 of Practice Direction 52A and must–

(a) not normally exceed 25 pages (excluding front sheets and back sheets);

(b) be printed on A4 paper in not less than 12 point font and 1.5 line spacing.

(2) Where an appellant has filed a skeleton argument in support of an application for permission to appeal, the same skeleton argument may be relied upon in the appeal or the appellant may file an appeal skeleton argument (Timetable Section 5, Part 1).

(3) At the hearing the court may refuse to hear argument on a point not included in a skeleton argument filed within the prescribed time.

(4) The court may disallow the cost of preparing an appeal skeleton argument which does not comply with these requirements or was not filed within the prescribed time.

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Supplementary skeleton arguments


(1) A party may file a supplementary skeleton argument only where strictly necessary and only with the permission of the court.

(2) If a party wishes to rely on a supplementary skeleton argument, it must be lodged and served as soon as practicable. It must be accompanied by a request for permission setting out the reasons why a supplementary skeleton argument is necessary and why it could not reasonably have been lodged earlier.

(3) Only exceptionally will the court allow the use of a supplementary skeleton argument if lodged later than 7 days before the hearing.


Examples of skeleton arguments and the essential guidance for reading about this subject are in an earlier post available here.