Court of Appeal issues strong statement about skeleton arguments/considers procedural irregularities in contempt proceedings
The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a finding that the appellant was guilty of contempt of court. This was because there had been procedural irregularities, namely:
- The allegations of contempt were not notified to the appellant until after he had been found guilty because the judge went beyond the allegations in the application notice
- It had been a serious procedural error to hold the committal application at the same time as other issues about which the appellant had had to give evidence. He had not been told that he had the right to remain silent (instead, he had only been told that he had the right not to incriminate himself)
- The appellant had not been told of his right to legal aid
Jackson LJ then went on to comment on skeleton arguments in appeal proceedings. He said that an appellant’s skeleton argument should be a concise, user-friendly introduction for the benefit of the three judges who will probably have had no previous involvement with the case. He described the skeleton argument here as “35 pages of rambling prolixity through which the reader must struggle to track down the relevant facts, issues and arguments”. He reminded litigants that a bad skeleton argument hinders the court.
As a result, although the appellant had won, it was held that he could not recover the costs of the skeleton argument from the respondent.