There are a number of oddities about the judgment in the case of S-B (Children) [2009] UKSC 17 handed down today.  First, contrary to the established practice of the Court (and indeed the House of Lords), it appears to have been given without prior announcement.  Secondly, although the judgment is dated 14 December 2009 it was made available on 15 December 2009 and appears to have been finalised on that day.  Thirdly, there is no Press Summary.  Instead, the website has the formal court order.  Although the Press Summaries appear to be little read by the media they are a useful innovation and we hope that this is an isolated omission. 

Fourthly, the “unique citation” for the case is [2009] UKSC 17 however the last judgment given by the Court was R v Horncastle [2009] UKSC 14.  The judgments numbered 15 and 16 have not yet been handed down.  Presumably one of these numbers will be taken by the JFS case – the judgment is due to be given tomorrow (which, in the conventional fashion, was the subject of a public announcement last week).  The numbering suggests that at least one more judgment may be given this term.  We await further news. 

We do not know why the court has chosen to depart from its established practice in relation to the judgment in the S-B case.  Perhaps it is only bloggers trying to keep up with the latest judgments who are inconvenienced – although if the media are to provide proper case reports then they do need advance notice (and press summaries).  We assume that the parties have the judgment in draft in advance of hand down and, In the interests of transparency and good communication it would be helpful if public announcements could be made as well.