Judge criticises a party's disclosure exercise

The judge in this case refused the defendant's application to extend time for compliance with a disclosure "unless" order.

There had been various criticisms of the defendant's disclosure process:

(a) Documents were provided in a random order, with no explanation as to where they had come from, no explanation of the context in which they were prepared, and no explanation of the acronyms/abbreviations used in them. There has been no attempt by the defendant to give even a broad range of dates or details of where the undated documents were found or which department they came from; and

(b) Search terms which were not used in the first place (but were used later on) had been "so obviously likely to throw up potentially relevant documents".

The judge said that she was unimpressed by the litany of excuses put forward for non-compliance: "This is not a case, in my judgment, in which the volume of documentation generated by the searches could not have been foreseen and in which the delay has been caused by matters beyond the Defendant's control. I am not persuaded that the Defendant went about the searches in a sufficiently thorough manner to begin with".

Furthermore, the pressure of other work and demands on the time of staff was an insufficient excuse, since those factors were known at the time when the original estimate was given and were built into the supposedly "realistic" timetable advanced by the defendant: "If a team of six counsel was insufficient to carry out the filtering exercise in time, the Defendant could and should have instructed more. I am not persuaded that the time and effort involved in educating new team members would outweigh the efficiencies to be gained by bringing them on board if further human resources became necessary".