Can the Court take judicial notice of impact of the Covid-19 crisis on agreed/SJE valuations?

A recent decision of HHJ Booth in S v. H [2020] EWFC B16 has been seen by some as giving support for the argument that the answer is yes.  In the context of an argument that he should take judicial notice of the effect of the crisis when considering the estate agents’ particulars which had been produced in support of a party’s claimed housing need, HHJ Booth was referred to the decision in Piglowska v. Piglowski [1999] 3 AER in which Lord Hoffman cautioned against such an approach but HHJ Booth said:

I have had cited to me by Mr Maxwell-Stewart a passage from Piglowska v Piglowski [1999] 3 All ER 632 House of Lords, where Lord Hoffmann deprecated the use of taking judicial notice of the cost of accommodation when evidence could be put before the court. In 1999 there was not available on the internet, as it had not then been invented, the sort of information that is readily available at the click of a mouse in 2020. Whilst it is plainly desirable that the court should have evidence, in proper form, it seems to me there must be some practical dilution of Lord Hoffmann’s stern words.”

So, one could argue that a Judge today can properly undertake their own research in considering whether they should accept such evidence.  That is what follows from a “dilution of Lord Hoffman’s stern words”.  But whilst the comments of HHJ Booth may be seen as support for that argument in the context of a “battle of estate agents’ particulars”, it is submitted that it is unlikely his comments or his decision in the case will persuade a Court that it can replace the view of an SJE valuation of assets.

John Brooke-Smith                                                                                                                                                                                              Trinity Chambers                                                                                                                                                                                                      13th May 2020