Re-trial for inadequately reasoned findings at first instance: Simetra Global Assets v Ikon Finance Limited [2019] EWCA Civ 1413

“There is nothing wrong with a shortcut, provided you don’t get lost.” Unfortunately, in this instance, the first instance judge erred in taking too many.

This led the Court of Appeal in Simetra Global Assets v Ikon Finance Limited [2019] EWCA Civ 1413 ordering the re-trial of a matter that had already lasted 13 days in the Commercial Court. The reasoning given by Males LJ, giving the only substantive judgment in the Court of Appeal, throws a great deal of light on the test for the adequacy of reasons in judgments.

Robin Knowles J had handed down a 13 page, 75-paragraph judgment ([2018] EWHC 2624 (Comm)). In it, he resolved to cut through what he described evidentially as a “very confused and incomplete picture’ at [1]; in so doing, he stated that he would “not address disputes of fact where in my judgment they lead nowhere in determining whether the Claimants are entitled to what they claim from those parties.” The Court of Appeal held that he had gone far too far in cutting down the issues.

Males LJ, at [46], summarised a number of authorities on giving adequate reasons into four propositions:

  1. Whilesuccinctnessisdesirableinajudgment,shortjudgmentsmustbecarefuljudgments.
  2. It is not necessary to deal expressly with every point. A judge must, however, say enough to show that care has been taken and the evidence, as a whole, has been properly considered.
  3. The best way to demonstrates this is to utilise “the building blocks of the reasoned judicial process”: identify the issues, marshall the evidence on those issues, and give reasons as to why the principally relevant evidence is either accepted or rejected.
  4. A judge must deal with apparently compelling evidence (where it exists) which is contrary to his or her conclusion and explain why it is not accepted. In Simetra, the judge strikingly did not analyse contemporary and apparently important documents ([49]).

This case is a useful yardstick to hold up to first instance judgments when considering whether or not to appeal them for failing to deal with the issues before the court.


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