R (Corner House Research & Another) v Director of Serious Fraud Office
Reference:  EWHC 246 (Admin)
Court: Administrative Court
Judge: Collins J
Date of judgment: 4 Feb 2008
Summary: Open justice - CPR 5.4C - access to documents - Administrative law - Privacy
Instructing Solicitors: Olswang for the Applicant; Treasury Solicitor for the Respondent
A claim for a declaration on behalf of three media concerns that they should have access in judicial review proceedings to an acknowledgment of service and to any detailed grounds for contesting the judicial review claim pursuant to rule 5.4C of the CPR. The default position is that statements of case are released unless a Court orders otherwise. The Respondent argued that the rule allowing access to court documents without the need for an application, only applied to defences in private law claims and that the proper construction was a matter for the Rules Committee. The media argued for a purposive approach to the rules.
Whether it was appropriate to apply CPR 5.4C to the acknowledgement of service and detailed grounds found in Part 54 proceedings on the basis that they were ‘defences’ within CPR r.2.3(1).
Granting the declaration,
(1) An acknowledgement of service and detailed grounds in judicial review proceedings were a ‘defence’ within CPR 2.3(1). Access would not extend to any further document annexed to either document.
(2) It was appropriate to apply a purposive construction of the rules.
(3) Where a statement of case is lodged at court that a party wishes to prevent in whole or part from disclosure it is down to that party to make the appropriate request, not by formal application, but by serving notice when lodging the document.
(4) The decision would have retrospective effect to October 2, 2006.
This decision brings judicial review proceedings into line with other proceedings as regards access to statements of case lodged by defendants. Distinctions between public access to court documents in private law and public law actions were non-sensical. Public law proceedings are far more likely to raise matters of public concern that should be reflected in press and public access to court documents. This decisions recalls the recent revisions to access under CPR 5.4