Impenetrable Defences


If someone does not pay your outstanding invoices, normally you have three options: firstly, to write the outstanding sums off and move on; secondly, to take insolvency proceedings and proceed with say, the service of a Statutory Demand (dependant on the value outstanding); or thirdly, to issue court proceedings.

If court proceedings are issued they may become defended in some way. Should this happen, a Statement of Case (which can be a claim form or defence document) must be prepared.

It is essential that this document is concise and clear, pleading or stating only the material facts, not the background facts or arguments, reasons or rhetoric.

In the recent case of Brown and another (t/a Maple Hayes Hall School) v AB the Court of Appeal actually struck out a defence that it felt was too long and incomprehensible and ordered the defendant to file a new defence no more than 25-pages long.

Edward Pepperall QC, sitting as a High Court judge, said the defence was, “not just far too long and impenetrable, it is littered with unnecessary commentary and excessive recitation of evidence”.

The judge said counsel for the claimant was right to argue that the case could not be allowed to go to trial on the basis of the 55-page defence provided. He went further, directing that the defence should be printed on A4 paper in not less than 11-point font and 1.5-line spacing!

The rules are clear that if a statement of case exceeds 25 pages, excluding schedules, an appropriate short summary must also be filed and served.

A court may strike out a statement of case if it appears to disclose no reasonable grounds for bringing or defending the claim. In addition, the court may give summary judgment against a party if it considers that the claim has no real prospect of succeeding and there is no other compelling reason why the case or issue should be disposed of at a trial.

If you need help to make sure your documents are prepared and filed correctly or would like advice on recovering outstanding debts, phone 01782 205000 or email