In a recent case the High Court has withheld publication of its draft judgment, at the request of the parties, in light of the subsequent settlement of their dispute: Renaissance Capital Ltd v ENRC Africa Holdings Ltd (unreported, 7 April 2011). The court took the view that the parties' private interests in maintaining a commercial relationship outweighed the public interest in handing down the judgment.
In balancing the conflicting interests, it was relevant that the case involved no legal issues that would develop the law or assist the settlement of future disputes, and there were no factual issues that demanded publication (such as findings of fraud).
The judgment is a reminder that the court retains a discretion as to whether or not to hand down judgment where a dispute is settled after a draft judgment has been circulated to the parties. The wishes of the parties will be one factor, but will not be determinative.
The authorities suggest that the position is different, and there is (probably) no discretion to hand down judgment, where settlement is reached before the draft judgment is circulated. As a practical matter, therefore, if parties want to ensure that no judgment is published, it is advisable to settle the matter before seeing the draft judgment. Parties should also keep in mind that they have a duty to inform the court immediately if "meaningful settlement discussions" take place following the conclusion of a hearing at which judgment is reserved.