Understanding the Law
June 28, 2013

In the interest of justice – correction of errors

No one is perfect and sometimes errors may occur, no matter how high a standard we set our selves. The law anticipates that mistakes could be made and so, in the interest of fairness, provisions are made for the correction of errors of an order or judgment, because it would not be viewed favourably if an order or judgment from the court is incorrect.{{more}}

If there is an error in an order of court that is already perfected, either of the parties could apply to the court for a correction of the error. It would be in the interest of the person who would benefit from the order to make the application to correct the error. A person who tries to benefit from the mistake of another would not be viewed well by the court.

Orders to be obeyed

However, where there is an error in a judgment, that judgment must be obeyed until the judgment is set aside. This was the pronouncement in a Privy Council case of Isaacs v Robertson (1984) 3 All ER p. 140). Their Lordships of the Judicial Council of the Privy Council made distinction between regular and irregular orders made “in a court of unlimited jurisdiction in the course of contentious litigation.” Based on their analysis, regular judgment must be set aside by an appellate court, while irregular could be set aside by the court that made the order on application by one of the parties. Hence if a person is ordered to pay a sum of money, that person must pay the money until the order is set aside or amended.

Correction of errors in judgment or orders

The old English proverb there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip is so applicable with the written word, as wrongly spelt words, misfits, could pop up here and there. The claimant is responsible for presenting a draft order to the court when he files his claim. It is the duty of the judge to peruse this order and to correct, add or subtract from the draft order. For some reason, an error might be overlooked. Any accidental slip or omission or clerical mistakes could be corrected with an application for a correction without notice. This is known as the slip rule and is given as Rule 42.10 in the Civil Procedure Rule 2000 (CPR 2000). Any application under this rule must be for genuine slips and not errors of substance.

The inherent jurisdiction of the court

This is a powerful tool of the court. Under this power the Supreme Court could correct its own error without the need for appeal when it appears clear on the face of the order. The court will amend the order in the interest of justice. According to His Lordship Justice Hugh Rawlins (CJ), in the case of St Christopher Club Ltd v Saint Christopher Club Condominiums and others No 4 of 2007, (St Christopher and Nevis). “A proper case in which a court would set aside its own order would be an extremely rare thing. However, I think that the present case presents such a rare occasion because the errors that are complained of are so clear on the face of the order that I could not permit it to stand. This is in the interest of justice.”

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com