25th Jun 2020

Remote hearings in the Court of Appeal – some thoughts. Christopher McNall recently gave some tips on our blog for lawyers attending video hearings, taken from his own experience in his role as a fee-paid Judge of the Tax Chamber. Today, he gathers some thoughts about appearing on the other side of the bench, before the Court of Appeal.

“On Tuesday, I had the pleasure (led by Katharine Holland QC) of appearing (remotely) in the Court of Appeal in Windsor-Clive v Rees – an appeal from a decision of HHJ Keyser QC on the correct interpretation of a right of entry ‘for all reasonable purposes’ in the lease of a farm on the outskirts of Cardiff.

My clients (the landlords) have planning permission for a 7,000 home new town called ‘Plasdwr’: the farm is in the middle. The question was whether it was reasonable for the landlords to leave remote bat detector monitors in trees (these are called ‘Anabat’ – look it up). The full story is at [2019] EWHC 1008 (Ch).”

The rest of this brief post is not about the law, but the mechanics.

  • We used Skype for Business, which is slightly temperamental, but OK. Make sure you have it downloaded on your machine.
  • Get the email addresses for the individual Judge’s clerks (which will be before the hearing, and make sure they are in your address book – if something has to be sent into court during the hearing (see below) you will need those addresses at your fingertips.
  • The Judges (who were sitting, in a socially-distanced way) in their individual rooms and other locations in the RCJ, and not in Court, were using paper bundles. That seemed to be because they each only had one screen. We have all now discovered that e-bundles are not really usable without two (decent sized) screens – one for the hearing, one for the bundle. One machine with a split screen (no matter how big) just doesn’t work.
  • One of the panel (Lewison LJ – who literally wrote the book on the Interpretation of Contract) brought up an authority for us to consider. We managed to get a pdf of it to the judges (through their clerks) during the hearing, as well as some other materials. This was laborious. Have a folder on your computer with anything you might need in it, and easily findable. Once sent, the judges had to print those off. We had to pause while one of the panel, whose printer had died, went along the corridor to pick up the documents from outside the door of another of the panel.
  • Good lighting and audio are important, but more important is the ability to exploit the medium to advocate your client’s case. Advocacy has to adapt.
  • The Court of Appeal lists ‘dry runs’ on the day before the hearing, which are helpful in identifying snags at either end. You might also get a sneaky-peek inside the Lord or Lady Justice’s house! If it goes wrong, don’t worry – a bad rehearsal may mean a good first night.
  • Break a leg!

Christopher McNall

25 June 2020

Christopher McNall specialises in disputes about tenanted and freehold farms and land (and especially agricultural tenancies under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986), taxation (especially of agricultural land), proprietary estoppel, and inheritance.

He has appeared in many leading agricultural and tax cases in the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Agricultural Lands Tribunal, and the First-tier Tribunal. He is Chairperson of the Agricultural Lands Tribunal for Wales, a Deputy District Judge, and a fee-paid Judge of the Tax and Property Chambers of the First-tier Tribunal.

Christopher was Consultant Editor for the ‘Agricultural Holdings and Allotments’ title in the 2018 edition of Halsbury’s Laws of England and writes the ‘View from the Bar’ column for the Agricultural and Rural Affairs section of Practical Law. His book, ‘A Practical Guide to Agricultural Law and Tenancies’, was published recently.

For more information on Christopher McNall please contact a member of our Business and Property Clerking Team on 0161 278 8261 or email