Very public disputes — access to court documents
When embarking on litigation, it is not uncommon for parties to overlook that documents filed with the court may (and often do) become public. Non-parties are entitled under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 5.4C) to obtain copies of certain documents on the court file without the court’s permission and without notice being given to the parties.
Non-parties may obtain copies of a statement of case but not documents filed with, or attached to, a statement of case. ‘Statements of case’ include claim forms, particulars of claim, defences, additional claim/counterclaim and replies to a defence: such documents should set out each party’s case in detail. Non-parties may also obtain copies of a judgment or order made in public, whether made at a hearing or without a hearing. However, documents attached to statements of case, witness statements, expert reports or the parties’ correspondence with the court are not generally publicly available and can only be obtained by non-parties if the court gives permission (which gives the parties an opportunity to object).
A non-party may only obtain copies of statements of case when all the defendants have filed an acknowledgment of service or a defence, or the claim has been listed for a hearing, or judgment has been entered on the claim…
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