- A draft judgment is confidential and should only be disclosed to those who need to see it for a permitted purpose.
- Breaching the embargo on a draft judgment can have serious consequences, such as being held in contempt of court, fined or reputational damage following public criticism by the judiciary.
- We set out below some practical tips on how to handle draft judgments and avoid potential pitfalls.
- Flag any typographical or other obvious errors of a similar nature which the judge might wish to correct.
- Only circulate the judgment to those who need to see it for a permitted purpose – to make suggestions for the correction of errors, prepare submissions and agree orders on consequential matters, or to prepare themselves for the publication of the judgment.
- If in any doubt as to who copies of the judgment can be distributed to, ask your solicitors and/or the judge to confirm.
- When sending the judgment internally, explain the mandatory obligations to anyone in receipt of the draft judgment and maintain an accurate list of recipients.
- Take internal measures to ensure the confidentiality of the draft is maintained and it is not shared with anyone other than specific people for the permitted purposes. For example, consider applying a password to the draft judgment and/or saving it in a shared folder with restricted rights of access.
- Consider whether you want to prepare a press release prior to the handing down of the judgment, but ensure this is carefully handled. While parties to litigation can prepare such press releases, they should not be drafted by legal representatives and third parties as that could breach the embargo.
- Take care when speaking to anyone else to avoid using any language which may inadvertently give away the ruling.