The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal made on the basis that the ruling in question was handed down 34 months after the conclusion of the trial.
Lord Justice Arnold accepted the delay in Dansingani & Anor v Canara Bank was ‘inordinate and inexcusable’ but found no reason to doubt the findings made and said the judge had been correct.
The court heard that the trial into a dispute about a banking loan lasted 14 days, ending on 31 January 2017. The judgment was provided to the parties by His Honour Judge Dight CBE, sitting as a High Court judge, in draft on 29 November 2019.
The appellants made two main complaints about the judgment: one that the delay was a serious procedural or other irregularity which rendered the decisions against them unjust, and secondly that as a result of the delay the judge failed to properly analyse the evidence. It was accepted that the Court of Appeal could not substitute its own findings for those of the judge, but it was argued there should be a re-trial.
The delayed judgment ran to 300 paragraphs and 141 pages and Arnold LJ said it appeared to contain a ‘very careful and detailed consideration’ of the issues.
He stressed that the court should not downplay the seriousness of a judge’s dereliction of duty to give judgment in a timely manner. He also noted that the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office had already issued HHJ Dight with formal advice after a finding that the delay was ‘unacceptable’.
The appeal court rejected submissions that the judge had been one-sided in his treatment of witnesses or failed to properly assess their evidence. Arnold LJ said it could be seen from his ruling that the judge tested the recollection of the witnesses by reference to contemporaneous documents.
Each of the criticisms about the judge’s approach was dismissed in turn by the appeal court, which found that he rightly concentrated on the allegations of lying that were pursued at trial and not substantiated. The judge was found to be ‘even-handed’ in his approach.
Arnold LJ concluded: ‘Despite the inordinate and inexcusable delay in delivering the judgment, there is no reason to doubt the findings the judge made. On the contrary, I am convinced that the judge was correct.’