High Court: failure to comply with rules likely to result in “severe sanctions”

High Court: sitting days are a valuable national resource

The High Court has issued a fresh warning that it will take a “very much stricter view” of the failure to comply with directions in the post-Jackson world.

HHJ Pelling QC, sitting as a High Court judge, said that under the amended CPR, a failure to comply with a rule, direction or order is of itself a “clear breach of the overriding objective and is likely to result in severe sanctions”.

It is the latest in a series of similar warnings from senior judges, such as a stricter approach to relief from sanctions and to allowing amendments to costs budgets.

The ruling in Fons HF v Corporal Ltd [2013] EWHC 1278 (Ch) concerned an extension of time to exchange witness statements; though the case started long before 1 April, this hearing came after the amended CPR went live.

He said both parties – but particularly the second defendant (the only active defendant in the case) – were in breach of a district judge’s order in November 2012 to serve the other with witness statements by 6 April. Had they been served as directed, it would have become apparent that the five days listed for the trial was far too long, the judge said, and “a valuable national resource, namely court sitting days, was likely to be wasted”.

However, though he came “very close” to refusing an extension to either party, Judge Pelling said: “I am only persuaded to extend the time for the filing of witness statements because this hearing is taking place only a very short while after the amendment of the CPR and because the period that has elapsed since the final extension expired is relatively short.”

But he issued a generally warning: “All parties and the wider litigation world should be aware that all courts at all levels are now required to take a very much stricter view of the failure by parties to comply with directions, particularly where the failure to comply is likely to lead into a waste of the limited resources made available to those with cases to litigate.”


30 March 2021

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