- Too many notices of appeal are simply too long. If a Notice of Appeal is too long, focus on what really matters can easily be lost. Justice then suffers. A change of culture is needed.
- Parties should realise that short, well-directed notices of appeal are usually more persuasive than long ones. The more points an appeal raises, the more it suggests that none is a very good one.
What Grounds in a Notice of Appeal Should Look Like
- Notices of appeal should be set out in numbered paragraphs, in line with the forms set out in the EAT Rules 1993, rule 3 and Schedule. The grounds are contained within the notice.
- There is no right to appeal except on a point of law. A point of law should be easy to identify in a few words. Whatever the paragraph numbering of the surrounding text is, the grounds of appeal themselves:
- (a) should begin with the heading “Numbered Grounds” and be numbered consecutively, starting at (1);
- (b) each be headed by a brief description – underlined or in bold or both – of the point of law relied on (e.g. “Misinterpreted Section XX of the Equality Act 2010”; “Reached a decision on a point which had not been argued”; etc.) followed only by what is needed to enable a Judge of the EAT to understand the point;
- (c) should (except in the case of appeals alleging either perversity or bias) usually occupy in total no more than 2 sides of A4 paper;
- (d) in the case of appeals alleging either perversity or bias, or both, should comply with paragraph 3.8 (perversity) or paragraph 13 (bias) of the EAT Practice Direction 2013;
- (e) should not include any quotation from either the Tribunal judgment under appeal (which can and will be read by the EAT) or any authority (though if it is important and relevant to refer to an authority, the reference should allow it to be identified, and the relevant page and paragraph number should be stated);
- (f) should not contain any footnote, nor incorporate any other document.
- If introductory, or further explanatory, text is considered desirable in addition to the grounds themselves, it should in most appeals be short, and should avoid making a complaint about the judgment of the Tribunal which is not made as one of the numbered grounds. Notices of Appeal are not meant to be skeleton arguments though it is permissible for enough to be said to persuade a judge at the EAT who considers the appeal on paper that it shows a reasonable ground for appealing.
- A Respondent to an appeal is not obliged to respond in any answer to contentions made in any text which accompanies the notice of Appeal. Unless it has additional reasons to add, it is enough simply to say it relies on the Reasons of the Tribunal. Additional reasons to support the Decision, if any, should be stated shortly.
What will happen if Notices of Appeal do not follow these Directions
- (a) A judge may send them back to be shortened and resubmitted. Any delay caused by this will be regarded as that party’s responsibility (though will not itself result in the appeal being ruled to be out of time).
(b) A preliminary hearing may be directed, for the Appellant alone to attend, to persuade the EAT there is reasonable ground for the appeal. Any expense, inconvenience and delay caused by this is the Appellant’s sole responsibility.
(c) In some cases, the failure may be regarded as unreasonable conduct of litigation and expose the Appellant to a risk of costs.
Why is this Practice Statement Needed?
- An appeal which is too long risks losing focus. There are other consequences too. Too long a Notice of Appeal invites too lengthy a Respondent’s answer. This in turn can add to the length of hearings. This takes up time, to the disadvantage of the parties and to other cases which are also entitled to be heard in good time. It costs money where at least one party pays to be represented, not only in the additional length of a hearing, but because longer Notices and Answers may be thought by those who prepare them to justify higher charges.
- It is particularly unfair for litigants in person to have to try to work out from a mass of material what appeal point is really being made, when it could be simply and clearly stated.
- The judges of the EAT consider that Notices of Appeal have become longer and longer in recent times, and less helpful as a result.
- Other senior courts have found the same, and taken similar steps e.g. the Commercial Court (Tchenguiz v Grant Thornton  EWHC 405) and Court of Appeal (Standard Bank PLC v Via Mat International Ltd  EWCA Civ 490), and this has been echoed in the EAT (e.g. in Salmon v Castlebeck Care (Teesdale) Ltd  UKEAT/0304/14 (10th. Dec 2014)).
- Skeleton arguments are not expected to be full written arguments, but instead are intended to provide the framework within which oral submissions will be made, and should be as short as the nature of the case permits. In particular they should not be lengthy just because the judgment under appeal is lengthy.
- They should refer to the decision or judgment under appeal, identifying the paragraphs of the judgment where an error of law may be detected or point of law arise; and the argument should correspond to the numbered grounds set out in the Notice of Appeal.
- It is often helpful to include citations to relevant legislation and authorities (i.e. case law) which are critical to the argument, though it is sufficient to identify these by adequate reference. As well as giving the reference, there should be a concise statement of what the legislation relevantly provides, and the legal principle for which a case is being cited.
- The argument should be self-contained: though it may give references for relevant legal authorities, it should not incorporate arguments set out in other documents by adopting them.
Mr. Justice Langstaff,
13 May 2015