SNAILS, BOXES, RATES, OFFICES AND CIVIL PROCEDURE: A DRAFT JUDGMENT IS NOT AN INVITATION TO CRITIQUE IT
The judgment of Mr Justice Fordham in Isle Investments Ltd v Leeds City Council (Rev 1)  EWHC 345 (Admin) contains a reminder of the point that a draft judgment is not an opportunity to re-open or critique the substance of the findings.
“This is a case about a rates-avoidance arrangement in relation to office premises in Leeds. It features some snails in some crates.”
The judge was considering an appeal based on a finding that “snail farming” provisions in leases for offices were a sham and an unlawful means of avoiding paying rates. The judge refused the appeal in a reserved judgment. The unsuccessful appellants came out of their shells in seeking to argue the case again in response to the draft judgment.
THE JUDGE’S COMMENTS
My judgment (§§1-60 above) was circulated in draft to the parties in the usual way and for the usual purposes. I have corrected typos and included reference to leases (9) and (10) and Property Alliance (18) Ltd. An important function of circulating a judgment in draft is to be able to elicit submissions on consequential matters, to be able to rule on any contested consequential matter and identify the appropriate form and wording for the Court’s Order, as I will now do. I received emails from Mr Mackenzie which were attempts to ‘critique the judgment’ and persuade me to change ‘the outcome’. These were unsuccessful and the kindest thing is to say nothing further, beyond referring to what is said in the reported Practice Notes in Egan v Motor Services (Bath) Ltd  EWCA Civ 1002  1 WLR 1589 at §§49-51 (Smith LJ) and In re I (Children)  EWCA Civ 898  1 WLR 5822 at §41 (King LJ).
A DRAFT JUDGMENT IS NOT AN INVITATION TO TREAT
A reminder of what King J said in I Children  EWCA Civ 898 where this point was made very clear.