Emma Zeb provides a helpful practice note summarising the new guidance on e-bundling for court hearings and the rules you must follow.
E-bundles are now very much the norm in most courts but producing a user friendly and accessible bundle is not an entirely clear cut exercise for all. It is vitally important that those tasked with putting together hearing bundles do it in the way required by the judiciary.
On 29 November 2021 the Senior Presiding Judge, President of the Family Division and the 'Judge-in charge of Live Services' provided general guidance for the preparation and provision of e-bundles to the court. Previous guidance had been provided in May 2020 but this is now replaced and the new guidance should be followed. This applies to ALL court hearings but not tribunal hearings.
In summary the requirements for electronic bundles are as follows:
- All bundles MUST be in PDF format.
- Computer generated numbering MUST be used and should start at page 1 on any first page, including the index page, so that there is no disconnect between the actual bundle page and the PDF page. I am sure we have all had to provide reference to the bundle page and the PDF page which is frankly cumbersome and confusing.
- All pagination should be computer generated and not handwritten.
- Each entry in the index must be hyperlinked to the indexed document and significant documents must be bookmarked with a clear indication of the content of the bookmarked document.
- Optical character recognition to allow for text searches should be used.
- All documents must be the right way up and capable of being read from left to right.
- The default view should be 100% font size and the resolution should be no greater than 300 dpi to avoid slow scrolling and glitches in the use of the bundle.
- The size of a bundle should be given consideration as should the number of bundles. This is clearly a warning against including all documents just for the sake of it and because you can do so at the push of a button. Bundles have become unnecessarily cumbersome and should be more targeted and relevant.
- Any supplemental documents should be added into the end of the bundle and also paginated. For both counsel and the judge it is often the case that work has been commenced on an original bundle before the additional documents have been added. In this situation, the court should be provided with the new section separately and the revised bundle so that a choice can be made as to whether the use the new larger bundle or the original bundle with the additional pages.
- When sending the bundle this should contain the content - i.e. 'witness statements' or 'medical records' with the case reference and case name.
- The requirements apply to litigants in person but if compliance is not possible then the litigant must provide a brief explanation to the court as to why this is the case as far in advance of the hearing as possible, and with a practical suggestion as to how to overcome the problem. A represented party should consider offering to prepare any bundles.
- Practical advice on how to achieve all of the above can be accessed on a YouTube video via the court service web pages.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.