A High Court judge has granted defendants permission to use documents inadvertently shared by the claimants’ solicitors before trial.

The claimants in Barclay-Watt & Ors v Alpha Panareti Public Ltd & Ors argued it would have been obvious to a ‘reasonable solicitor’ that a mistake had been made when their witness statements from around 10 years ago were disclosed. The defendants said it was not appreciated that a mistake had been made.

The court heard that the statements had been included in lists of documents provided for inspection, but only just before the trial was it asserted that this occurred as a result of an error by a junior solicitor. Objection was then raised to the defendants relying on the documents.

On seeing the documents, the defendants said they wanted to rely on the contents, as they were close to the time of the indcident at the heart of the dispute and therefore a more accurate reflection of the claimants’ evidence.

It was submitted that these documents were relevant to the case and should be allowed as a matter of principle.

Sir Michael Burton GBE, sitting as a judge of the High Court, said there was ‘obviously some apparent muddle’ over the pagination of the documents, but a reasonable solicitor was entitled to assume intentional disclosure, with nothing to put them on notice of any mistake.

‘The existence of such witness statements was expressly listed without objection to disclosure,’ said the judge. ‘The disclosure was apparently deliberate, and there was no reason for them to assume incompetence.’ He found no grounds for refusing the defendants permission to use the documents.