By Sarah Nuttall

Very recently, the President of the Family Divison, Sir James Munby, handed down judgment In the matter of L (A Child) [2015] EWFC 15. In doing so, he has taken the opportunity to issue what could only be considered as a final warning to family practitioners in respect of their “endemic failure” to comply with Practice Direction 27A (PD27A) – the universal practice to be applied in the High Court and Family Court when preparing and managing court bundles.

Perhaps the most general note that can be of this judgment is that, amongst many other aspects of PD27A, the court draws attention to the need for the parties to agree a single bundle that shall be provided in an A4 ring-size lever arch file. This bundle should not, without prior permission, exceed 350 pages (PD27A, 5.1), and each page should be single-sided (PD27A, 5.2). The documents forming this bundle should only be those that are relevant to the hearing itself, either because it is necessary for the court to read them or because they will be referred to during the hearing itself (PD27A, 4.1).

Not only firm in his condemnation of family practitioners, the President went further in showing support for the proposals put forward by Mr Justice Holman in Seagrove v Sullivan [2014] EWHC 4110 (Fam) and Mr Justice Mostyn in J v J [2014] EWHC 3654 (Fam) as to how the courts might in future deal with parties that have filed to comply.

It would seem sensible therefore for any and all family practitioners to re-familiarise themselves with PD27A, particularly in light of this warning:

“The professions need to recognize that enough is enough. It is no use the court continuing feebly to issue empty threats. From now on delinquents can expect to find themselves subject to effective sanctions, including but not limited to those I have already mentioned. If, despite this final wake-up call, matters do not improve I may be driven to consider setting up the special delinquents’ court suggested by Mostyn J.”