Case Alert - [2016] EWHC 1627 (Ch)  

Court considers whether document can be redacted

Brandsmiths for claimant, Bryan Cave for defendant

CPR r31.14 provides that a party may inspect a document mentioned in a statement of case. The claimant sought inspection of a document referred to in the defence (a licence agreement). The defendant wished to provide only a redacted copy of the agreement, on the basis that some parts of the agreement were said to be irrelevant.

Referring to textbook commentary, Chief Master Marsh noted that there is no difficulty in redacting a document which contains two or more distinct subject matters, only one of which is relevant (eg board minutes) or where a document lists the names of individuals whose identity is irrelevant. As stated in Documentary Evidence by Charles Hollander QC, "A distinction should be drawn between the blanking out of names and the blanking out of a separate part of a document. Where names are blanked out, it will usually be obvious to the other party what has occurred and why, and it will be open to the other party to make an application to court in case of dispute. But where part of a document is blanked out, it will not be apparent to the other party what has been blanked out and the other party may not have the basis of a challenge. So it is the solicitor's obligation not to blank out in such circumstances unless satisfied that there is an entitlement to redact".

In this case, the document in question was a single document referred to in the defence and so the starting point was that the claimant had a right to inspect it without limitation. Although the document contained commercially sensitive information, that could be protected by other means (eg an order under CPR r31.22 and an order preventing non-party access to the court file without the permission of the court). It was concluded that, although elements of the agreement were of only "marginal" relevance: "I do not consider, however, that redaction of parts of the document is either necessary or desirable. It is axiomatic that the meaning of a document must be derived from a consideration of the whole document. This is not a case which is analogous to the example given by Mr Hollander QC of board minutes where it is obvious that there are different subject matters".