The Civil Procedure Rules Committee have agreed an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules which means that from 5 June 2014 parties can agree extensions of time in writing for up to a maximum of 28 days (provided certain conditions are met).
The Jackson reforms heralded a new regime in respect of sanctions which apply in the event of non-compliance with court rules, orders or directions.
From 1 April 2013 where a party has failed to comply with a rule, practice direction or court order, any sanction for failure to comply imposed by the rule, practice direction or court order has effect unless the party in default applies for and obtains relief from the sanction.
Following the new rules, courts have adopted a hard line approach to non-compliance and have applied sanctions. Parties who breach deadlines are at risk of having their case struck out with adverse costs orders made against them.
The current rules do not allow parties to vary timetables by agreement with the result that legal advisers and their clients have been put to the expense of submitting formal applications to the court for relief from sanctions.
When considering an application for relief from sanctions, the court will look at all the circumstances of the case so as to enable it to deal justly with the application. In particular, the court is required to consider the need:
- for litigation to be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost
- to enforce compliance with rules, directions and court orders.
The volume of extension of time and relief from sanctions applications has stretched court resources to disproportionate levels and has put trial dates at risk whilst such applications are determined.
All change : 5 June 2014
In response to the difficulties, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee have agreed an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules which means that from 5 June 2014 parties can agree extensions of time in writing for up to a maximum of 28 days. However, parties should note that:
- the extension must be agreed before expiry of the deadline; and
- when agreeing the new extension, parties must ensure that any extension of time does not put a hearing date at risk.
The practical effect
The amendment to allow parties to agree extensions of time must be good news for litigating parties.
It means that:
- once an extension is agreed, litigation can proceed with limited disruption to the timetable;
- court resources are saved; and
- additional costs are kept to a minimum as the need to make an application to the court falls away.
If you are approaching a court deadline and are unsure how to proceed, seek legal advice.