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Baigent v Random House Group Ltd sub nom The Lawyer

The court gave guidance as to the treatment of draft judgments by journalists. Journalists should appreciate in future that under the Practice Direction (CPR PD 40E) (Reserved judgments) 2005 unless a specific order was made, all draft judgments were embargoed and could not be published until the official judgment was handed down. The publication of a draft judgment would be regarded as contempt of court. Given the publication of the instant guidance, it would not be possible for journalists to say that they did not understand the nature of a draft judgment. The consequences of a breach of the Practice Direction might be severe.

12 May 2006

The court gave guidance as to the treatment of draft judgments by journalists. Shortly before the court had handed down its substantive judgment in the instant case ([2006] EWHC 719 (Ch)), The Lawyer magazine had become aware of the result of the action and published it on its website. Once The Lawyer had been informed of its error, the result was removed from its website. The Lawyer’s apology for its error was accepted and it was determined that it was not in contempt of court.

HELD: The Practice Direction (CPR PD 40E) (Reserved judgments) 2005 was issued to deal with draft judgments. Prior to it, the parties did not see a judgment in draft until one hour before it was due to be handed down and lawyers were unable to take any instructions from their clients on the draft. The Practice Direction enabled lawyers to discuss draft judgments with their clients and other appropriate people, but on terms that they agreed to keep the draft confidential unt...

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